OPINION

Two-party system and a large state

Certainly a simple proportional electoral system would free many voters from the grip of the two major political parties, enabling them to pick a party more suited to their own world views. The two major parties have become nothing but alliances of ideas and people and their cadres struggle with each other to prevail within them, instead of fighting from two different camps. After all, how could people as different as Stelios Papathemelis and Costas Simitis coexist (until recently) in PASOK, or longer ago, Giorgos Karatzaferis and Marietta Giannakou? However, the electoral system doesn’t provide the answer to another question: Why are New Democracy and PASOK the only protagonists in a two-party system? Or, why isn’t New Democracy with the Left, or PASOK with some other right-wing party? The secret must lie in the management of an overblown state. We are used to saying that there is just 5 percent of the thinking electorate that swings between the two parties and decides the winner. We tend to forget another large mass of voters whose progress and increased prosperity are directly dependent on systems within the state that are controlled by these parties. This refers not only to the distribution of jobs (and these once played a greater role). Businessmen favored by by the state (most, that is) fund parties and politicians according to their chances of winning a seat. There are thousands of civil servants whose «extras» (paid places on committees, training seminars, transfers to other places and services, for example) depend on the political personnel in the ruling party. That is why the potential of winning a seat is so important in electoral forecasts. Many believe that factor is important (and correctly so), not because they believe in popular wisdom in any metaphysical sense but because they know that this projected forecast affects a sector of the electorate, that is, those who have something to gain from the victor. We have to realize that the two-party system will survive as long as the state remains overblown, as long as the main party is in a position to «arrange» things in minor and major affairs for most of the people in this country. That is why complaints about the overall situation always come second to individual goals. The fact that the next election is expected to challenge the two-party system to a certain extent is due to those individual hopes that have been dashed, because the state, in certain sectors, has been forced to pull back its frontiers.