Dilemmas of political planning

The prime minister appears to have chosen how to fight his next political battle. By opening up a new front on reforms and taking a tough stance on terrorism and illegal immigration, the premier is sending the message that he is going to do what he thinks best until the very end. He has also put opposition leader George Papandreou in something of a quandary over whether he will push for early parliamentary elections. Costas Karamanlis is hoping that PASOK’s leader has put himself in the same tight corner that he had found himself in 2000 – when he toyed with the idea of opposing Constantinos Stefanopoulos’s re-election as president – the problem being that he risks looking like a defeatist if he does not insist on elections for March 2010 or overly self-assured if he pushes for an earlier date. The prime minister has realized that the best way to salvage his reputation is to address many important issues at once. This way, if he loses, he can say that he gave it his all, but failed. Then again, there are those who believe that the political game is nowhere near over. They believe that if Papandreou does not agree to address crucial policy issues come September, he will lose points with the middle ground, which has already shown some reluctance toward him. Karamanlis will push Papandreou and he needs to respond because this autumn will be crucial. The big question is whether the premier will carry out a Cabinet reshuffle that will convince voters he is able to push through his agenda. Because, if the policies are correct but the people there to implement them are not, this strategy, like so many before, may end in tears. The truth is that in an environment of a razor-thin parliamentary majority, financial uncertainty, rising terrorist activity and a time bomb of a scandal unfolding, political planning is not the easiest of tasks in Greece right now. However, the fact that the government – albeit after a considerable delay – is putting on the table a clear, and possibly progressive agenda, is a positive step.