Either we change or we sink

George Papandreou’s new slogan, «Either we change or we sink,» may not have the minimalism or the patina of the older «Socialism or barbarity» but it’s very concrete and to the point. Few voters will disagree, in fact. As polls show, they are frustrated because they believe the country is in decline. If voters were to hold the current administration responsible for their woes and saw the opposition as a solution, then things would be easy – all we’d have to do was wait for election time. New Democracy’s political record has been so poor that had PASOK convinced voters it constitutes a credible alternative, it would now enjoy a two-digit lead. The decline of the two mainstream parties – what’s more at a time when they have not suffered any losses in defections – is proof of a crisis in political representation. Disaffected center-left and center-right voters are turning to smaller parties. The main reservoir of protest voters this time is the Ecologist Greens party. It is successful because it has an attractive name and because it has no past. In fact, the cracks in Greece’s two-party system go deeper than what public surveys reveal. Many votes for the two main parties will be half-hearted. ND’s sins, errors and omissions have caused frustration even among its grassroots supporters. On the other side, PASOK has done a better job at rallying its fighting forces. That’s not because left-of-center voters believe that the party will do a good job. Solidarity is mostly driven by a desire to see the conservatives out. But if the past is any guide, protest votes have never been any guarantee of a solid political outcome. Both parties have disappointing records. Opinion polls show this will not prevent PASOK from winning the upcoming Euro elections and from returning to power. But it does not seem enough to undo the poor impression of its political ethics and its ability to be a productive administration. The dilemma «either we change or we sink» is genuine. But a change in power will not necessarily avert the disaster.

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