OPINION

Being liked is not in the mandate

No politician enjoys being unpopular with the people. Former Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis delayed making important decisions and was forced to call snap elections when he realized that he could not shoulder the burden of social security reform and measures to curb the country’s public deficit. His defeat at the polls was, in effect, the result of the fact that he couldn’t bring himself to become unpopular, even when it was required of him the most. The current premier, George Papandreou, appears to be facing similar difficulties in reaching unpleasant but necessary decisions. This first became apparent in his pre-election campaign when, despite his insistence on early elections and his knowledge of the state of the economy, he did nothing to trim his rhetoric and vision of the future to a level more befitting the hard numbers that he would have to deal with. Now he is in danger of seeing his dream of structural reform being crushed because the money to make it happen simply isn’t there. The true qualities of a leader, however, emerge when a politician embraces difficult decisions to the benefit of the country at the risk of becoming unpopular to the people.