Old flames can die

I met with a friend the other day who’s a traditional New Democracy voter and especially passionate about Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. He was livid and I was surprised to learn that on Sunday he chose to go to the beach rather than vote in the European parliamentary elections. I asked why. The biggest reason, and this also explains the party’s overtures to the ultranationalist LAOS, was due to the way the government handled the riots last December and an overall sense of insecurity. The economy, surprisingly, was not the first thing on his mind; he believes the prime minister is doing his best under the circumstances. And he continued: «What I can’t abide is that just as the government is about to impose new taxes, it goes ahead and gives a ‘corporation’ of monks several million euros.» The decisive moment for this ND voter was the premier’s appearance at the Thessaloniki International Fair last September. «Until then,» explains my friend, «I really liked him. I forgave him a lot and thought: ‘He’s still learning.’ But when he shook his finger at me and said he doesn’t care what I or other voters think and that he was going to cover up for his friends, he lost me.» But, fanaticism for a party being a lot like a love affair, my friend continued to have hope. Even though he was mad at the government, he was also mad at its critics, including Kathimerini, whom he blamed of being heavy-handed. Before we went our separate ways, however, my friend warned me that Karamanlis was on the brink of another blunder. «If he keeps ignoring me the way he did on Sunday night and treats me as part of a herd, he will lose me for a long time to come,» were his last words. Shortly afterward, Karamanlis did indeed ignore him as he read out trite admonitions to his ministers, as though reading from older speeches. I haven’t spoken to my friend since, though I can imagine how he feels. I know that even though he has not found a new flame, he will only return to his old love reluctantly, because what makes him maddest is when it takes him for granted.