OPINION

Commentary

The latest opinion polls have confirmed that the ruling socialists and Prime Minister Costas Simitis himself are making a slight comeback – always in comparison with the low percentages of five months ago. A more careful reading, however, conveys a less optimistic outlook. True, the New Democracy opposition has yet to convince the majority of citizens that it forms a reliable political alternative. On the other hand, however, it seems to be consolidating its lead, primarily because of the decline in the power of the ruling party. The two major parties have seriously fluctuated on the popularity curve in previous years while there are obvious contradictions in some of the citizens’ political preferences. Both these factors confirm that the electoral power balance is volatile, meaning that to draw any definite conclusions would be premature. However, a trend is indisputably being consolidated, and this is reflected in two facts. First, New Democracy enjoys a clear lead in terms of what voters intend to vote for and who they think will win. In both cases, the conservative lead has acquired a fixed bottom limit. Second, it is important that, even at an unfavorable conjuncture of circumstances for him, opposition leader Costas Karamanlis has leveled with Simitis as a more suitable prime minister. PASOK’s slight upturn was the result of several factors, such as the improvement in the intraparty climate, Simitis’s expected re-election at the coming congress, Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis’s nomination for party secretary, and the social package announced by the prime minister. The terrorist blitz on September 11 has also played a decisive role. It is a fact that at a period of international crisis, the public tends to show greater consensus and avoid criticism. It displays increased solidarity and tends to support the government of the time. PASOK will no doubt try to exploit the situation in order to reverse the climate and regain the lead from New Democracy. PASOK has proved to be an experienced and vigorous party which can always make a dynamic comeback. This time, however, it has a handicap which cannot be overcome. Many people have become weary of its prolonged stay in power – and nothing can change this.