Politics is back

After a long period in which political discourse and debate was in abeyance, if not completely stultified, Greece appears to have rediscovered politics in recent months. Beginning with revelations regarding Greek terrorism and then focusing on issues raised during the municipal and regional elections, public debate in Greece, no matter how imperfect, has once again turned toward politics, heightening interest in even oft-forgotten foreign policy issues. There is no doubt that political discourse had been stagnating for some time. Whether due to the brief stock boom and the impression that all important issues could be solved technocratically, rather than politically, or to the converging positions of the main political parties and an approach to political questions as a problem of communications rather than as a real challenge, the fact is that politics appeared to have been sidelined, not only in public debate but in the minds of the people. The atmosphere of recent months has shown how powerful this change had been. Successes achieved in fighting terrorism led to a discussion of the lack of transparency and the arrogance resulting from every sinister activity divorced from democratic legality. This also led to a debate of the value of personal liberties and the rights of the accused as basic values of the system they themselves were fighting against. This renewed «politicization» of public debate was followed by the local elections, even if the main focus has become the questionable power of a populist, extreme-right sector of the electorate and what this means for the major political parties. Despite the superficial aspects of the debate, the return of politics has raised questions that should never have been forgotten; questions over the parties’ duty to formulate substantial policies, strategic positions and proposals. Above all, the parties should be clear about which citizens they are representing. If, for New Democracy, this means taking up a position regarding extreme-right elements, for the ruling PASOK party it means making a distinction between flirting with the left and an attempt to attract center-right voters. For the left (particularly the Communist Party of Greece), it means clarifying whether it wants to make realistic proposals or whether it simply wants to defend its territory. For everyone, however, the return of politics presents the challenge of making clear answers to difficult questions. The easy answers have been given by Mr Karadzaferis.