Time for pragmatism

If this was not the year 2008 but 2004, the current opposition would be entirely adequate. It would simply wait its turn until the government fell like a ripe fruit from the tree. But these are not normal times. We’re going through a particularly difficult period that leaves no room for economic policy improvisations nor misguided political appointments. It’s time PASOK’s leader showed his cards. Greece is faced with a great fiscal crisis and the risk of not being able to borrow at reasonable rates. The global economy has entered a crisis that is expected to hit Greece between January and March. More and more people are realizing the severity of the situation and adjusting their spending habits. This is why the popularity polls of SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras are on the wane, while the parties on the edges of the political spectrum remain stagnant. The year 2008 is not 1981. It’s not even 2004. Citizens are skeptical and their expectations of politicians are few. No one enjoys the mass appeal that once brought Andreas Papandreou – or even the current premier – to power. Regardless of what government comes next, its grace period will be extremely brief. Papandreou will soon have to reveal with whom he plans to govern. The crucial segment of middle-ground voters want someone they can trust. Moreover, they want to know if Papandreou will try to take power utility PPC back from the Germans, or the ports from the Chinese. It may not be what PASOK’s leading elite wants to hear, but a considerable section of voters would like to see an improved version of Costas Simitis, not a Tsipras or a Papariga. In other words, they want to see a politician who will continue where Simitis left off, albeit without the ills of the second term. PASOK has capitalized on New Democracy’s decline. But unless it can come up with a convincing plan, it will face three different threats: First, a Karamanlis comeback; second, a leak of voters to the Greens; and, finally, a need to form a coalition government. Meanwhile, government bond spreads will keep widening.