Theater of the absurd

Official results of the first round of municipal and regional elections provide ample food for thought, not only over party tactics but also over various aspects of our political scene. Regardless of the usual efforts by party officials to mold reality to their political schemes, there are many unavoidable conclusions. First, PASOK has clearly suffered heavy losses, most evidently in the provinces but also in a considerable number of Attica municipalities. Yet the Socialists did not lose as much ground as New Democracy had anticipated. PASOK has certainly managed to curb the climate of degeneration which was strong until the early summer. Sunday’s polls showed that PASOK retains some very strong pockets of resistance which could, under certain favorable conditions, allow it to put up a strong fight in the next parliamentary elections. ND, on the other hand, gained ground in most of the country. It might well be celebrating now had its unsuccessful nomination of Yiannis Tzannetakos for super-prefect worked out, or if conservative officials had handled his defeat better, or if the major ND victories in a large cluster of municipalities and prefects had not prevented the party from stealing the show. This Pirandello-style image of the defeated Socialists celebrating next to the grumbling and gloomy ND cadres is globally unprecedented and calls for serious political examination. ND’s lack of self-confidence, which has clearly inflicted a blow on the conservatives’ momentum for power, is perhaps a result of not enjoying a strong political appeal. ND’s electoral power is more the product of people’s disaffection with government policy than a reflection of public confidence in its program. This is why its power wavers according to circumstances, hence leaving PASOK with the initiative. ND must realize that unless it promotes an independent vision that is capable of swaying the Greek people, it will find it extremely hard to win power. An additional obstacle to its goal is the emergence of the extreme right (now in the face of Giorgos Karadzaferis) which should neither be inflated nor ignored. In Greece, the requisite social conditions are present to sustain or even reinforce a far-right trend. But this does not mean that its expression through a distinct political party is unavoidable. Polling 14 percent by no means reflects the actual power of the far right in Greece. But such a party might well gain up to 2.5 percent in a national vote, which could be fatal for ND’s aspirations for governance.