The Greek Socialists will govern again after a five-year-long absence, during which the conservative party of ’New Democracy’ (N.D) had the power. Former centre-right Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis faced a number of challenges during these years including corruption issues and scandals with senior members of his government, a continuously detoriating national economy and a rapidly growing debt, as well as an alarming outbreak of violence, especially in the capital city of Athens. Recent election results demonstrate the clear disappointment of the Greek electoral body and especially of the electoral basis of N.D, which seemed to have punished Mr. Karamanlis’ government ill-fated policies and undelivered promises. PA.SO.K gained the 43.9% of the votes, winning 160 from 300 parliamentary seats, while N.D gained the 33.5% of the votes, winning just 91 seats; one of the historic lows for the party.
Karamanlis, elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2007, took the risk of early elections after increased pressure mounted from many senior members of his party (some of which were aiming at claiming the party’s leadership following an electoral failure), as well as having to face constant criticism from the Socialist opposition. The unprecedented difference of 10.4% between the two big parties shows the magnitude of the Socialist win, if we recall that two years earlier, PA.SO.K won only 38.1% of the votes securing 102 parliamentary seats, when New Democracy had the 41.8% majority and 152 seats. Mr. Karamanlis stepped down from the Presidency of the New Democracy party immediately after the announcements of the elections results. Former Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyiannis as well as former Athens mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos are rumoured to be competing for the party’s leadership at its upcoming Congress later this autumn.
While New Democracy plunges into internal disputes, PA.SO.K has a full agenda of things to deal with.
While New Democracy plunges into internal disputes and is unlikely to re-emerge before spring 2010, PA.SO.K has a full agenda of things to deal with. Newly elected Prime Minister George Papandreou comes from a family of leaders, his father Andreas Papandreou was the founder of PA.SO.K more than thirty years ago, while his grandfather was also a historic political figure for Greece. Having served as Foreign Minister in the past, as well as being President of the Socialist International, Papandreou’s international credentials need little introduction; in fact his effectiveness in foreign policy issues remains one of his most appreciated personal qualities. His newly appointed cabinet reflects his personal commitment for party ‘renewal’ and gender balance, with many female ministers taking key government positions.
Major challenges lye ahead for Mr. Papandreou and his government, not least the uplifting of an economy in dire state. The ‘revival plan’ promised in the elections campaign will be set into action within the next weeks, while for the first time ‘green (sustainable) development’ has been touted as an overarching axes of all government policies. Fighting the corruption present in all levels of governance will also probably be the second biggest challenge for Papandreou’s administration, following the economic issue. The Greek PM has also vowed to make Greece’s voice in Europe stronger while continuing to support further European integration; the future of Turkey in the EU is now to be more tightly connected with the progress in Greek-Turkish relations.