Politicians sally forth

The country’s political system, that peculiar institution which every four years seeks legitimacy via the votes of the Greek people, is up and running again. Emerging from its usual listless inaction or helplessness, it is now spreading around the countryside in a fresh display of dynamism. There is no emergency, and nothing important is at stake. The economy and foreign affairs are on course, since incorporation in the European Union has restricted – most fortunately perhaps – any margins the nation had for acting on its own. Quite simply, after months of perhaps ill-advised challenges from the main opposition, after persistent urging from a few analysts and much noise in the media, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis appears to have decided on early elections, on September 23 or 30. There is little anxiety over the result of such an election, perhaps one could say none at all, if such a view were not a brutal and cynical denial of the objectivity which should characterize the words of all those involved in public affairs. Yet that observation refers to the macro-political level of partisan rivalry. On the ground, however, that is in each electoral district, the campaign has another, somewhat tragic significance. Each candidate’s rival is not so much in the other party as on his own party ticket. In this context, every election is not just a partisan conflict but also a civil war, and throughout history, these have always been the most interesting. The Constitution and its amendments have strengthened the parties dramatically. Yet no matter how much the role of the members of Parliament has been downgraded, it is they who wage the war for their party and their own personal survival. So they have our sympathy, more so for the fact that the day after the election, they will once more be a thorn in the side of the party leaders.