The new, great battle

Rarely have a country’s politicians appeared so cut off from people’s sensitivities than the representatives of Greece’s parties over the past few days. Standing on ashes that were once forests, under the heavy cloud of the seven people who died battling blazes, the government and opposition resorted to their habitual cockfighting. The conservatives hasten to remind voters of PASOK’s past sins, as if this somehow compensates for current mistakes and omissions. For its part, PASOK, as if the result of some virgin birth, engages in grandstanding, such as its demand for a crisis meeting of political leaders. The anxiety of the government and opposition shows they are beginning to realize that voters now view the environment as a central issue. But their behavior indicates that they remain slaves to conflict, which obstructs problem solving. On all key issues, each side aims to smash the other instead of pursuing what is good for the people. But people are fed up with theatrics; they want solutions. According to a recent VPRC survey, 65 percent of respondents said PASOK would not have done better than New Democracy in combating the Parnitha blaze. Some 78 percent said land-grabbing remains largely unpunished, while 60 percent do not believe illegal properties will be demolished. People’s cynicism is the consequence of the lengthy exploitation of public land as a private good. Many political careers have been built on the abuse or squandering of national wealth. The degradation of the environment hurts all and people will no longer tolerate it. Parties will be judged on whether they do a good job safeguarding our common legacy. Karolos Papoulias’s speech yesterday on the occasion of the anniversary of the restoration of democracy in Greece showed that the president is one of the first to have got the message.

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