During the handing over ceremony at the interior ministry, the new minister, Constantinos Ioannou, concluded his address thus: “I receive the baton of the interior ministry, with the pledge that we will do whatever is humanly possible to live up to the expectations of society.”

Ioannou did not explain what he believed society’s expectations of the interior ministry actually were, just that he would do whatever is humanly possible to live up to them. It appears that Ioannou, who as health minister of the previous government, had earned a reputation as a no-frills, straight-talker has decided to repeat the main political message of his president about “living up to the expectations of the people”.

In the case of the interior ministry, which has so many different areas of responsibility, can it be said we all have the same expectations? Would property owners and environmentalists be on the same side, applauding the interior ministry when it announces a new zoning plan? Its regional plan for the Akamas was certainly not welcomed by property owners in the area, but environmental organisations applauded it. Whose expectations would Ioannou try to live up to now when he grapples with its implementation?

The assumption that society is a homogenous whole with uniform demands and expectations which a government can satisfy and live up to is nothing but fantasy. For example, in the case of many labour issues society is divided and want diametrically different things. To the expectations of which part of society would the government live up to, the workers or employers? One section of society wants a bigger amount of the taxpayer’s money spent on defence, while another wants spending on the national guard to be cut because it considers it a waste. Which of these mutually exclusive expectations would the new government meet?

This talk about living up to expectations could be interpreted as a government attempt not to accept the responsibility of making choices and passing it on to the public. The reality, however, is that the basic expectation most people have of a government is to operate honestly and with transparency, but also to make tough decisions that will not always meet with the approval of all of society. No government ever achieves that because there are always conflicting interests and divergent views within society, the members of which, rarely, all want the same things from their government.

A government also has responsibility to lead. This often involves making unpopular decisions. We hope it lives up to this expectation of a part of society.