Debating the debate

We are already halfway through the campaign period and our politicians are still debating the television debate next week. It would be interesting to know exactly how much time they have devoted to real dialogue and exchanging ideas on the economy, unemployment, education, development and healthcare, and how much on the terms of the debates on Monday and Tuesday. Party representatives insist that the debate will serve as a platform for real dialogue so that the citizens can see all the parties’ positions on major issues. At the same time, however, they have substantially limited the probability of any real discourse with their terms, conditions, proposals and demands. Will the party leaders be standing or sitting down? You can’t hold a real debate sitting in a chair. Do George Papandreou’s spin doctors at PASOK think he’ll score some points if he, with his lean physique, stands beside his portly adversary Costas Karamanlis? Will there be an audience or not? Shouldn’t an audience be a given and shouldn’t it also have the right to ask questions or make comments? Should one leader have the right to interrupt another in order to ask a question? There is no dialogue without the questions that arise in the process. Should the same questions be posed to all the candidates? The much-touted television debate has died before it even got into the studio. It has been sanitized, starved, strangled and buried under the game of making a good impression and its essence has been replaced by a ridiculous flirtation with airtime. The debate will happen, however, and it will be a show staged for just a handful of people, a show in which the protagonists will turn up without any sort of enthusiasm and heavily suspicious of one another. It will happen and it will be like a cheap show that most people, at least those expecting a real debate, will not watch. Not even for a laugh.