Patience recommended

Early elections were called in the manner that they were and the people of Greece have so far reacted mostly with indifference, as the campaign industry tries to stir voters’ passions and small groups of enthusiasts march in support of the leaders of various parties. The leaders of the two major parties have blown the entire election campaign out of proportion and in the meantime, their greatest concern seems to be the terms governing their televised debate as their party cadres sweat over whether they will make it on the ballot. Admittedly, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s performance at the Thessaloniki International Fair last Sunday was good and he scored points with his characteristic directness. His manner, however, could hardly be considered substantial campaign material. He was more interested in projecting the image of a responsible leader who does not shirk from public self-criticism, who will not bow to union demands and who is even prepared to announce a freeze in public sector wages. On the other hand, PASOK opposition leader George Papandreou is investing in the people’s expectations and promising sweeping changes that doubtless he will try to bring about in the long tradition of his family. In short, Karamanlis believes the electorate is to be feared less because of the financial crisis, while Papandreou believes that the people need an escape from their dismal reality. The election campaign will be driven along these lines, with a chorus of commentators asking the usual questions about the economy and the country’s future. Some voters will cast their ballot for the party for which their family has always voted. Others will decide not to participate at all, as they question the ability of the political system to live up to its commitments, while others will feel great relief if any party manages to emerge with a clear majority on October 4. Until then, what we need is patience, because things are not going to get any prettier – political rhetoric can become a very ugly thing.