Competition key to governance

There is nothing worse for an athlete than competing against a mediocre opponent or one who doesn’t take the competition seriously. This was how Costas Karamanlis felt when he became prime minister in 2004: PASOK had been adrift for awhile, paying for the mistakes of its previous administrations. The chief of the then-opposition party, current Prime Minister George Papandreou, was unable to build any real opposition and wavered between the old and the new guard of PASOK without being able to shape the party’s identity. Karamanlis and his high-ranking officials felt as though their opponent had all but given up. It is important to feel the hot breath of your opponent on your neck and to know that people have an alternative. It makes you try harder to get results, to realize that nothing can be taken for granted in the game of politics. Karamanlis failed to understand this and he allowed the game to carry on without taking any risks or making any uncomfortable decisions, banking on the belief that Papandreou did not have what it takes to become prime minister. The same can be said today, however, now that the tables have been turned. New Democracy has set itself on course of self-destruction with no known end in sight. October’s elections proved that people have little patience and will lash out at the polls. They can’t be swayed by inner-circle rationalizations nor by lofty speeches. The people want a strong hand managing the country, solutions to their problems and little else. ND has a long way to go before it can convince them that it is worthy of being elected one again. On the other hand, PASOK is facing a Sisyphean task with the country’s finances. The public was pleased with the new Cabinet and the symbolic gestures many of them made. But it also knows that the ship has not left the eye of the storm; it’s just enjoyed a few days of calm sailing. And whoever steers it will not have the same luxury that Karamanlis did in 2004 of believing that he has no competition.