A last-ditch effort

The prime minister’s speech to the New Democracy parliamentary group yesterday deserves some good marks. It was the first time since the Thessaloniki International Fair that Costas Karamanlis showed himself to be in touch with society. According to a party MP, deputies got a taste of «the good old Karamanlis.» The premier managed to rally his fighting forces and the grassroots of the party. The government yesterday seemed to come out of a prolonged limbo, as key cadres attempted to defend its record in public. The question now is whether it is all too little, too late – in other words, whether Karamanlis can still make up for lost ground. He has in the past proved himself capable of stealing the show by one good move, or by putting on a very good performance. It remains to be seen whether Karamanlis will follow up his words with decisions. He has perked up the ears of his party. Can he do the same with a shocked and angry society? Karamanlis still has two allies: The first is fear. People are deeply concerned over the riots and the economic crisis. The second one is opposition leader George Papandreou, who has failed to see that voters are not looking for some postmodern version of Gandhi but for a bold, pragmatic leader who can steer Greece out of the crisis. If Papandreou is simply waiting for the government to fall like rotten fruit from a tree, he is making a huge mistake. Greeks know that 2008 is not 2004. Merely a likable captain won’t do. The ship is sailing through a storm, its seams have opened up and we’ll be lucky if it runs aground in shallow waters. The question is whether Karamanlis can flex his muscle and form a new government based on three or four of his more qualified cadres and whether he will assign nonpolitical figures to key posts. After all, opinion polls make it clear that he should no longer worry about upsetting the inner-party equilibrium. The future has yet to be seen, but yesterday he showed that the political animal within him is still alive.

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