The pres­i­den­tial elec­tion para­dox

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY NIKOS KONSTANDARAS

A few days ago, speak­ing with a vis­it­ing col­league who nei­ther works in Europe nor cov­ers events here, I sud­denly felt how much we Greeks take for granted some things that should have wor­ried us ear­lier, how our care­less­ness of­ten leads us into un­nec­es­sary dif­fi­culty. We were talk­ing about the Greek econ­omy and po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ments. “I don’t un­der­stand,” my col­league said. “To elect a pres­i­dent who has no real pow­ers the coun­try may have to hold par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, in the mid­dle of the gov­ern­ment’s term?” I had no an­swer. I thought only of how the pro­tag­o­nists of pub­lic de­bate – pri­mar­ily politi­cians, fol­lowed by jour­nal­ists and ex­perts of con­sti­tu­tional law – had not pointed to the ab- surd con­sti­tu­tional sit­u­a­tion in which a gov­ern­ment may take the tough­est de­ci­sions on the ba­sis of a one-seat majority but is brought down if it can­not se­cure at least 180 votes in the 300-seat Par­lia­ment in fa­vor of a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. It is a nice thought that our pres­i­dent should serve as a sym­bol of na­tional unity. It would have been even bet­ter, though, if our con­sti­tu­tion had fore­seen to­day’s sit­u­a­tion, in which the op­po­si­tion has com­mit­ted it­self to not sup­port­ing any can­di­date and is push­ing for early elec­tions. The op­po­si­tion has ev­ery right to do so, un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion of 1975 (after the monar­chy was abol­ished). The pres­i­dent’s func­tions then were far more im­por­tant, be­fore the con­sti­tu­tional re- forms of 1986. The ques­tion is: Does the noble tar­get of elect­ing a “uni­fy­ing” pres­i­dent jus­tify the dan­ger stem­ming from the fail­ure to do so? Al­ready we see how the pos­si­bil­ity of early elec­tions is poi­son­ing the po­lit­i­cal scene even fur­ther. Ac­cu­sa­tions of at­tempted bribery of mem­bers of Par­lia­ment are hurled back and forth; the gov­ern­ment is trapped be­tween cred­i­tors’ de­mands and its fear of the po­lit­i­cal cost of agree­ing to them; the econ­omy, which has been suf­fo­cat­ing for years, is forced to keep hold­ing its breath. The monthly poll of po­lit­i­cal trends con­ducted by Mace­do­nia Univer­sity for Skai Ra­dio and Tele­vi­sion, which was pre­sented yes­ter­day, showed that from Oc­to­ber to Novem­ber support for the two main par­ties re­mained sta­ble (with SYRIZA get­ting 27.5 per­cent and New Democ­racy 20 per­cent). In­ter­est­ingly, though, the per­cent­age of peo­ple who want the cur­rent par­lia­ment to elect a pres­i­dent grew from 43 per­cent in Oc­to­ber to 46 per­cent in Novem­ber, while those who want the pres­i­dent to be elected by the next par­lia­ment dropped from 49.5 per­cent to 46 per­cent. Cit­i­zens’ un­ease is grow­ing, be­cause those who should have wor­ried ear­lier were in­dif­fer­ent. The para­dox is that de­spite the tur­bu­lence over ev­ery pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, no gov­ern­ment has fallen be­cause of this. Once again, Greek politi­cians ap­pear unique in achiev­ing the im­pos­si­ble. It’s the sim­ple stuff that they mess up.

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