Another crucial year ahead

The year 2007 saw a tough electoral victory for Costas Karamanlis as well as gains for smaller opposition parties. It also saw the painful defeat of PASOK and its leader George Papandreou, who, however, came out of an uneven battle with authority over his party. Viewed against this background, the new year finds the political leadership decidedly bolstered, yet the Greek political scene is looking dangerously fluid. A slender parliamentary majority will not create a problem for the government in itself. But the low-key presence of the opposition in Parliament robs New Democracy of the opportunity for a head-on collision that could lead to a political rallying of the troops at a time when it is trying to promote changes to the social security system. Instead of indulging in the rhetoric of confrontational politics, the government finds itself in the unenviable position of having to deal with the reactions of all the interested social groups. On his part, Papandreou has won a decisive battle against his greatest adversary within PASOK, though the repercussions of the victory on the party have yet to be felt. The new year is also crucial for the other opposition parties because it will show whether they are attracting voters disgruntled with PASOK and ND or whether the biparty system will again prevail. Most importantly, however, is the fact that a cycle has come to a close. After seven years of military dictatorship, it was ND that restored parliamentary democracy and PASOK that brought marginalized segments of Greek society back into the mainstream. Yet a strong impression prevails that, during the past 10 years, politics has been replaced by an – often ineffective – managerial philosophy. The coming year will be crucial because it will show whether politics is ready to reaffirm its presence, or whether the two main parties will continue to weaken.