Originally, the first of the two expected rounds of elections were to be held on April 9. While this was not publicly announced by the Prime Minister, it was confirmed by people in contact with him.
It was even said that he was going to announce it at the Cabinet meeting that was scheduled to take place last Friday, which of course was postponed.
A national calamity struck, with dozens of dead – many of them children – which changed the life of the country.
After that, it seems that two schools of thought emerged:
One argued that despite the national tragedy, life goes on, and that it is not possible to shut down the country.
Yes, we should mourn and bury our dead, they said, but at the same time, the country must continue to function.
The other side argued that it would be unacceptably inhumane to put the country into an election period and to call elections for April 9, during a period of mourning, and on the same day as the expected 40-day memorial services for the victims. And, of course, then there is Orthodox Easter on April 16, etc.
Of course, the second school of thought prevailed and the Prime Minister is said to have decided to postpone the elections until later, perhaps towards the end of May.
The interpretations given by various opponents of the government are along the lines that the postponement has to do with the fact that the government’s popularity will have declined after the tragedy.
I have no doubt that there will have been some drop in its popularity. One doesn’t need to know the polls to conclude that. Inevitably a percentage of the public – and rightly so – is criticizing the government over the accident.
But does anyone believe that SYRIZA’s popularity ratings are rising? Does anyone believe that SYRIZA, which ruled for four years before the current New Democracy government, does not also share in the responsibility for the tragedy?
Of course not. It is more likely that the small extreme parties – right and left – will see some improvement in their ratings, as they can claim that they are not responsible – because they never came close to governing.
So, it is not perceptions about the popularity of the government that will determine the timing of the election. At any rate, it would be an unprecedented provocation of the people and a great insult to the memory of the victims if the elections were held on April 9.
And by the time they are actually held – probably on May 21 – a lot can change.