Own goals for lack of opposition

Following a reasonably strong showing in the first days after the elections, the government now seems to be losing the plot. Since the elections, it has been looking like a team with strong players on the attack, which, for lack of an opponent, begins scoring own goals. It is impressive to see how the government has succeeded in just five short weeks to lose, for no real reason, so much valuable political ground. It has not introduced any significant reforms to justify the public’s reactions, nor has it any significant adversaries to contend with. The signs do not bode well for the future. When the highest-ranking members of the government sit around the table, they display the solidarity of a council of feuding tribes. One side prays for Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis to slip up on the FYROM issue and pack her bags, while the other is happy to be entertained by Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis’s successive gaffes. There is also a third group, which sits in anticipation of Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos messing up on a matter of public safety. What they apparently don’t seem to understand is that a faux pas on the FYROM name issue, a mistake in tax legislation and one blunder on the public order front will sink the entire ship. Within the context of this unparalleled camaraderie – where there is more backstabbing than in the media world – there is one very serious problem worth considering: the back benches. A young and capable minister recently admitted to the terror he felt in Parliament when faced with the disgruntled New Democracy MPs, huddled together on the back benches of the house, staring at the ministers with envy. There are all sorts among them, from former ministers who know that they will never walk through the doors of a ministry again unless it is as a visitor asking for a favor, a smattering of colorful kooks who want to raise their a banner in pursuit of their own personal agenda, and others who would, if they could, «blackmail» their way back onto the front bench. This mix of the disgruntled, some of whom have little left to lose and absolutely nothing to gain in their political careers, is a tough nut to crack. The prime minister knew full well at the time of his election that he would have to face a difficult political winter with a slender majority and many bumpy roads that would have to be taken, from the FYROM name issue to social security reform. What he did not expect, most probably, is to see the government being undermined by those figures he considered – justifiably – to have been the most successful.