Greek vote may end a golden age for Papandreou
Greece faces its greatest level of political uncertainty since democracy was restored a decade ago, according to independent political observers. The immediate cause is the tally from mid-June's vote for the European Parliament. Although the election had little impact for Europe, it sent a strong political wind through Greece.
The ruling Socialist government claimed the results indicate confidence in their policies. And on the surface, Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou's Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) did win 41.6 percent of the vote.
But the count was 6 percent less than Pasok's 1981 victory which brought it to power, and if the vote had been for national elections, Pasok would have beenleft with only a one- or two-seat majority in the 300-member Greek Parliament.
Pasok's main opposition, the conservative New Democracy Party, was close behind with 38 percent, some 2.5 percent higher than its 1981 tally ousting it from power. The pro-Moscow Communist Party (11.6 percent) and the Eurocommunists (3.4 percent) maintained their strength, and the National Political Union, mainly composed of supporters of former dictator George Papadopoulos, won a surprising 2.3 percent.
Ironically, if the Euro-election had been conducted under a voting system that has been proposed by Papandreou, the Socialists would have fallen far short of a majority, thus reinforcing the strength of those in his party who advocate close collaboration with the communists. Such a move would spark an acute political crisis, says some political commentators.
With national elections scheduled for October 1985, Papandreou faces a number of political tasks. The economy has shown no real improvement since he came to office three years ago. Growth remains stagnant and investment is in decline. Although inflation has recently dipped below 20 percent, unemployment is expected to rise over its current level of over 8 percent.
In foreign policy, although Papandreou's nationalist stance remains popular, he can point to no dramatic success in the last three years. Moreover, the gap between his rhetoric, which is anti-West and often pro-Soviet, and his actions, which have done nothing concrete to stear Greece away from its Western commitments to the European Community and NATO, has produced confusion among the electorate, and among some, contempt.
Papandreou now faces the choice, according to one sympathetic observer, of either maintaining his balancing act in the hope that voters will blame others for the country's problems, or have both rhetoric and policies become more consistent and practical in order to provide something tangible for an election campaign.
Although New Democracy increased its share of the vote, the Euroelection results are a disappointment. Many party members point to the unpopularity and tactical mistakes of leader Evangelos Averoff. Few see an end to the party's leadership struggles. A party slogan during the campaign - apallagi (deliverance), a play on Pasok's 1981 slogan, allagi (change) - amused but troubled many supporters.