With what political compass...

By Stamos Zoulas
Published July 21st 2003 in Kathimerini

The announced change to the electoral system reflects the usual arguments cited by the government (such as allowing more proportional representation, enhancing the role of deputy, and curbing political bipolarity), while more substantial arguments come into play as well. New Democracy, for example, is currently opposing the proposed change as an act of political dishonesty, proof of an establishment mentality, and an attempt to distract the public from pressing problems.

Both ND and the Greek Communist Party (KKE) refuse to engage in dialogue, which means that the new law will probably be voted in solely by the governing PASOK party. In this way it will be implemented only after the politically sensitive presidential election of February 2005. In other words, PASOK’s scenario of a parenthetical ND government during the brief grace period of May 2004-February 2005 applies.

There is, however, a crucial segment of voters who do not think along partisan lines, and who are mainly concerned about how Greece might be governed if the electoral law is implemented.

All political leaders, and by extension their parties, are judged primarily by the consistency of their words and deeds, and by the effectiveness of their policies. The late Andreas Papandreou, for example, evinced exceptional inconsistency in his proclamations and political actions.

His successor, Simitis, made timely and practical attempts to earn the people’s trust on the basis of deeds. Unfortunately for him, at the end of his political cycle he is resorting to empty words.

Simitis knows better than any other Greek citizen that whatever good he has done the country (and not of course for his party) is due to political decisions which ignored or ran counter to the ideological prejudices and political rigidity of the old-style PASOK. He was often criticized within his own party for abandoning PASOK’s social concerns, principles and values.

This raises the question of how Greece is to be governed, if in a year or so a coalition government of PASOK with Dimitris Tsovolas’s DIKKI party, the Left Coalition or any other party emerges from the election as a genuine expression of the principles and values of PASOK as it was under Papandreou.

Simitis and those who engineered the electoral law know the answer. That is why they have avoided making any approach to the parties of the Left on the basis of converging platforms.

Such an endeavor would not only show a lack of sincere desire for, and likelihood of, cooperation among parties, but that the experiment of sharing power among partners who disagree, distrust and clash with each other is extremely dangerous for Greece.