OPINION

First term judged by second

According to all indications, we are heading for early elections. The opinion polls, analyses and the prevailing view in people’s conversations indicate that the ruling New Democracy party will be re-elected, though by a smaller majority. The day after the elections, in other words, will be much like today. So what is at stake in these elections that requires them to be held prematurely? That is the question Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will have to answer when he asks President Karolos Papoulias to dissolve Parliament. According to sources, Karamanlis will cite the need to move ahead swiftly with the government’s reform plan. Invoking a major foreign policy issue is no longer enough. Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos has absolved Athens of shouldering the burden of the Cyprus issue in all international fora. The Macedonian question, meanwhile, is too risky, as right-wing LAOS party leader Giorgos Karatzaferis is working to win over ND supporters on that issue. Karamanlis knows that what Greece needs most is a fast entry into the 21st century no longer burdened by old wounds and injustices. He knows the people want a country where laws apply to everyone – always – and where the best use is made of taxes, so that we can all enjoy the fruits of a just society. However, he also knows that others before him have tried to modernize the country. Some couldn’t resist compromising with media and business interests, others didn’t dare provoke vested interests. What is becoming apparent, though, is that people want determination and action in order to safeguard the general good. So the government has chosen to go into battle over reforms. That is its greatest challenge if it is re-elected: If it fails to act in the second term, it risks having the achievements of its first term seen as a rehearsal without an opening night.