Decision underscores deadlock

Costas Karamanlis, Greece’s conservative prime minister, has called early general elections despite the opposing views of senior Cabinet members, who see the announcement as a prelude to defeat. This is a major political paradox, as the cadres who publicly opposed the move will now have to come up with different arguments. Above all, the decision was confirmation of the overall impasse. The premier called snap elections on the grounds that the socialist opposition has said it will not consent to the re-election of Karolos Papoulias, the incumbent president, thus throwing Greece into a lengthy campaign period that would be very detrimental to the economy. Karamanlis is effectively saying that the opposition, which demands early polls almost as a default, has the power to decide political developments. Karamanlis’s public address highlighted that he views the election as a personal duel against PASOK’s George Papandreou, whom he considers an inferior opponent. He seems to feel that battles are won by leaders. Perhaps he is right. But he could be underestimating the socialist chief just as Papandreou’s inner-party foes have done in the past. The advocates of snap polls within New Democracy deem that PASOK will not win an absolute majority, as opinion polls indicate that the socialists have scored no significant gains, while the ultra-nationalist LAOS has held its ground. That could lead to a right-wing coalition government. But if the two right-wing parties fail to cooperate, then the country will go to elections again. Under the new election law, PASOK will win 10 more deputies without increasing its share of the vote. Karamanlis’s decision is a risky one. He hopes that the outcome will be decided on the basis of the two leaders’ credibilities. But voters may not necessarily see it that way, interpreting the move instead as fatigue or failure to push through necessary reforms. No one can answer this now. However, yesterday’s development confirms the decay of Greece’s political system.