Things to come

What politicians say and people hear are often entirely different things. Costas Karamanlis has been very clear in statements during his campaign that the days of handouts are over. For some, the prime minister stated this so forcefully that they actually believed he did not want to win the elections at all. Opposition leader George Papandreou, on the other hand, has been just as vague and avoided making any specific commitments. There is, however, great danger in the illusion entertained by a large part of the population that the country will see better days if PASOK comes into power. If these people are dreaming of a return to the days of old PASOK in 1981-89, they will be sadly disappointed. The public coffers are empty, the country is on the brink of financial collapse and anyone who tries to provide more handouts will be taking a major risk. Papandreou and his closest aides know the situation well and are very concerned about what more they will discover if they win Sunday’s elections. Most people do not know just how dire the situation is. They hear much about the role of the state, loan guarantees, the role played by the «nasty banks» and they have expectations of better things to come. In other words, Papandreou may have braced himself for the storm ahead, but he has failed to prepare the Greek populace for it. First of all, it is likely that we will see a wave of «disobedience» toward banks. Bolstered by some of the media that believe Greece should be a financial Garden of Eden where no one loses their money nor takes any risks in business, it wouldn’t take much to generate a wave of popular dissent behind which those who want to take advantage of the situation can hide. One of the reasons the government called snap polls was its belief that the winter ahead of us will be harsh indeed, as clouds of social unrest rumble on the horizon. If Papandreou is elected, he will have to face this same volatile situation and, for a portion of the population, it will come completely out of the blue.