OPINION

Need for strong opposition

The country always needs two strong parties capable of governing. Whenever this has not been the case, either because the center was in crisis or because the center-right lacked a natural leader, Greece has found itself in turmoil. A serious, powerful opposition is necessary to keep tabs on the government and allow average citizens to feel that they need not go to extremes out of sheer desperation. Since 2004, PASOK has been going through a profound structural crisis. Some attribute it to historical determinism, citing the state of the Labor Party before Tony Blair. Others believe that PASOK chief George Papandreou is trying out different recipes without knowing exactly what flavor he wants. It is more than likely that both factors are at play. We have seen signs that Papandreou is finding his stride. Those who say that he must adopt a less confrontational approach on the big issues heaved a sigh of relief when he visited the prime minister prior to the NATO summit. Their hopes were dashed the next day as Papandreou’s statements were bereft of any sense of magnanimity, even though this was dictated by the general sense of national euphoria. At the same time, Papandreou appears to have (finally) surrounded himself with a team that actually looks like a team and which won’t make gross errors in its political ABCs. Of course, a blunder that can send Papandreou back to political Square One is always likely given recent events. For the past few months Greece has seen a government with goals, one that is willing to clash if necessary in order to succeed. If PASOK could stop looking like a replica of the party of the 1980s it could fill the opposition void. If it doesn’t, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s political supremacy will not end any time soon, the extremes of the political spectrum will gain ground and the political system overall will suffer.