People to PASOK: Get on with it!

The people have spoken, and they have told the country’s politicians to get on with governing, to save the economy and to stop wasting time, resources and energy. The PASOK government renewed its mandate, albeit it with fewer votes than it won in national elections last year, but the opposition parties did not make the gains that analysts expected in the midst of painful austerity measures and unprecedented reforms to the social security system and labor regulations. When the opposition parties declared that yesterday’s local elections would be a referendum on the government’s handling of the economic crisis and judgment on the memorandum that Greece signed with its partners in the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, Prime Minister George Papandreou raised the stakes. He declared that if he was not satisfied with the result, he would call national elections. It was left to the electorate to decide whether Greece would enter a period of political uncertainty. The fear of this drove up the price of Greece’s borrowing by close to 10 percent in the past two weeks, as international markets and creditors contemplated either a weakened PASOK trying to carry out reforms or government by a party opposed to the deal with the EU and IMF. No one can say that it is easy to endure measures that imply lower incomes, higher taxes, fewer benefits and greater unemployment. And yet, with a quarter of the votes counted, PASOK appeared to be ahead of New Democracy in terms of votes, implying that if these were national elections, it would have won the most seats. This meant that Papandreou could not carry out the threat to call elections, and, at the same time, had to be concerned by the amount of support that his party had lost – as well as with the estimated 40 percent of the electorate which chose not to vote. Last night, after the results became clear, Papandreou spoke of the need for everyone to join in the «national effort» to save Greece. He cannot expect help from the opposition parties. What he needs to do is to take the opportunity that the people have given him – once again – to introduce measures that will help the country get back on its feet, and to show that his government respects the sacrifices that they have made and will continue to make over the next few years.

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