OPINION

The undecided and failed tactics

We are now on the verge of elections and there is a feeling of certainty that the ruling New Democracy party is entering the final stretch to the official campaign with a clear lead over PASOK. All opinion polls released in June showed it leading the main opposition PASOK party with regard to people’s voting intentions. It also has an overwhelming lead in people’s expectations of the winning party. Furthermore, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is ahead of PASOK leader George Papandreou as the people’s preferred choice for prime minister. At the same time, reliable recent surveys have come to the conclusion that while the catastrophic forest fires of last month have cast a pall over the government’s image, in the aftermath, the balance has not been upset. Finally, the prime minister would not risk announcing early elections if he was not sure of his considerable advantage over Papandreou in a September poll. In practice, this means that PASOK’s only chance to gain ground during the campaign period, which apparently is likely to be extremely brief, will be from among the undecided, who, according to public opinion pollsters, are in the order of 15 percent of the electorate. According to voter surveys, those in the electorate who are now ticking the «undecided» box regarding the polls differ somewhat from the corresponding sector of the electorate in the 2000 and 2004 campaigns. This time they are not restricted to voters who usually swing between the two main parties and who usually determine the final outcome, but are those from the once hard core of these two parties’ electoral bases. This largely explains the widespread, generalized disdain for our political process that has been systematically revealed in opinion polls. However, something else is very important for Papandreou’s Socialist party. It is clear that the noisy and derogatory rhetoric in the opposition tactics lately employed by the successor to the reformist leader Costas Simitis – first over the social security/structured bond scandal and then over last month’s devastating forest fires – has reached its limit. These tactics are attracting neither the usual undecided voters, nor those PASOK supporters who abandoned the party in 2004 for New Democracy or who have done so since then. Therefore, Papandreou’s only option is to emphasize his party’s platform. That is, unless his main goal is that the expected election result be, in fact, a manageable