Conservative tactics

Although national elections are still far away, opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis should feel that his party is at a turning point these days. This turning point could be understood as the beginning of a lengthy, albeit final pre-election stretch, in the sense that the opposition party ought to start demonstrating its political depth, promoting its positions on key issues, and seeking to engage or counter the government on substantive issues. It is an open secret that ND has so far chosen the tactic of waiting to pluck the ripe fruit. This policy was justified on the grounds of the government’s decline, which had been marked until recently. Hence, ND has avoided regular clashes with the ruling Socialists and has made no detailed presentation of its positions on crucial national issues. This policy is often effective, as it combines two tactical advantages. One is that it saves a party from taking public positions that are likely to disaffect a section of the electorate. At the same time, it helps cloak inner-party disagreements that would inevitably surface if leading party figures made an analytical presentation of their views. Waiting to pluck ripe fruit, however, can also have negative consequences. The citizens expect a party aspiring to rule to present its main positions, its program, and its points of disagreement with the government. This exposure of the opposition to the public eye, which plays a decisive role in shaping public expectations regarding a party’s potential performance in power, acquires more importance the less people treat a government’s decay as a foregone conclusion. Now, it would be premature to discount PASOK’s demise, as there are growing signs that the government may be making a comeback based on an unexpected combination of events such as the resurgence of government zeal following the cracking of terrorism. ND cannot afford to confine itself to a tactical waiting mode. It has to convince the public not only of its ability to govern but also that it is the best-suited party to do so. Karamanlis’s address at the Thessaloniki International Fair tomorrow is the right time for launching a substantial counterattack. ND has to inaugurate the opening of a new opposition term; a term where conservative discourse is not spent merely on rebuffing government achievements but on stressing what ND would have done instead or what it will do, should it come to power. Besides, that would be the best way of showing the ruling Socialists’ handicaps.