Government and opposition

PASOK has swept back to power after nearly six years in opposition. The immediate question is how George Papandreou will govern. Another question, equally important, is how the opposition will act. PASOK and New Democracy have been changing places in government since 1974. We know the framework in which they move. In opposition, too, they are predictable, basing their policy on a populist «no» to everything the government proposes. And yet, despite PASOK’s long tradition of governing, it is difficult to predict how Papandreou will act. On the one hand, his total control of the party is based on the most anachronistic right – that of his birth. On the other, his ideas and policies are way ahead of the rest of Greek society. He had a hard time in opposition and had to fight for his political survival just two years ago. Yesterday’s landslide, though, will make life in government easier for him. He must keep in mind, however, that victory came not so much because people suddenly fell in love with him and PASOK’s policies but because of their rejection of ND. It was only after Karamanlis called early elections (thus conceding failure) that opinion polls showed people accepting Papandreou as their new leader. Karamanlis, exhausted by his dysfunctional government and an intensely negative opposition, risked everything on the snap election and lost. New Democracy will have a hard time in opposition. Karamanlis has already begun the process for his succession. Though understandable it is a pity. If he believed his own message, that the country needs a strong government to carry out the painful reforms that the economy demands, he should have stayed put. The opposition leader must either force PASOK to deal with problems or offer his support when the government has to take tough measures. If Karamanlis had put country above party, he would have stayed on to push for the reforms in which he believes.