Political eclipse

The Zorbas report on the bond scandal has been described as a time bomb in the electoral battle. As often happens, predictions of political cataclysms – whether dictated by opposition ambitions or reflecting media exaggeration – are likely to prove baseless. Certainly the bond scandal is a serious one, as it directly concerns the enormous issue of social security and is causing cracks in relations between the ruling New Democracy party and lower-income groups. But after six months of television debates, any political cost has already been apportioned. And election campaigns have never played a decisive role in the outcome of the battle, perhaps with the sole exception of 1985 and the sudden clash between Andreas Papandreou and Constantine Karamanlis. Anytime there was a major shift toward change, in 1981, 1989, 1993 and 2004, it had come about much earlier through social and political confrontation. There is no similar trend in these elections. There is, however, a general feeling that both major parties have seen better days. ND came to power with something of a «Gaullist» profile of social and patriotic sensibility and outflanked Simitis’s PASOK from the left, only to quickly embark on «radical reforms» that brought social unrest. PASOK, which under Simitis had been transformed into a «modernizing Third Way» party when in power, has now under George Papandreou completed that transformation from the more difficult position of main opposition party. Turning a deaf ear to its popular base, it has tied itself firmly to the neo-liberal mast. Now the leaders of the two major parties are fighting so fiercely simply because they differ so little. The sense of a political «eclipse,» a lack of alternatives, will probably be reflected by a noticeable erosion of the two-party system and usher in a new period of strong political mobility.