Winning a second term

Umberto Eco famously said that «there is no news in August.» But this conviction expressed by the great Italian writer should be defeated in Greece this summer – in fact, with a loud bang. Indeed, it seems to me that this August will be different from all previous ones. By the end of the month, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will ask Karolos Papoulias, the president of the Republic, to dissolve Parliament and call general elections in late September. Papoulias will most probably give the green light and the informal campaign period will enter a fiercely contested final round. The political confrontation will no doubt have all the characteristics of a struggle to decide who will take the helm of the next government. Socialist opposition leader George Papandreou will most likely keep up with his populist and aggressive tone, concentrating all his fire against Karamanlis, the strongest card in the conservative party. It’s hard to predict what Karamanlis’s reaction will be. It’s certain however that the election outcome will not be decided by swearing or cockfighting. Historically, the two mainstream parties have rarely fallen below the 20 percent threshold and the outcome is usually decided by the 3 to 5 percent who swing between the two parties. New Democracy can easily maintain that 3 to 5 percent under one condition: Karamanlis must own up to voters, engage in some self-criticism for the mistakes and delays of the first four years and lay out his plans for a second term. Most importantly, he must commit himself to leading a reformed government with skilled officials from different political backgrounds or the private sector. Greece needs more reforms. The economy is lagging in competitiveness and the environment is deteriorating. If Karamanlis is to do service to the country, he must speak the truth about these issues.