French polls give Greece the shivers

Jean-Marie Le Pen's success in beating Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to reach the second round of voting for the French presidential election sent shock waves throughout Greece as well as the rest of Europe. Prime Minister Costas Simitis, a fellow Socialist, applauded Jospin's decision to retire from politics but said that he himself would continue with his reform program. The conservative New Democracy party, which has led the ruling PASOK by 7-8 percent in recent polls, sought to point out the failure of France's Socialists while distancing itself from the extreme right represented by Le Pen. Simitis, saying that he had not expected this result, praised the French prime minister's decision to retire from politics. «Mr Jospin sent a clear message with his stand,» he said. «In politics, you cannot keep to a position without paying the price. He did well to resign. With his stand he showed that not everyone is the same, that not everyone has the same attitudes.» Observers saw this as an indication that Simitis will resign if his party loses in the next parliamentary elections, which must be held by the spring of 2004, but also that he will not be swayed from his reformist policies. Simitis also accused the conservatives and left-wing opposition parties in Greece of helping to create «a climate of scorn, confusion, indifference, creating fertile conditions for the swelling of a wave of conservatism, resulting in the strengthening of the extreme right.» New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis, speaking to his shadow cabinet, stressed that «solutions cannot be found in the extremes or extreme action... Solutions are to be found in the center, which New Democracy expresses.» But, he added, the French elections showed «the bankruptcy of socialist governments and their inability to deal with problems and provide a vision.» Front-page headlines yesterday included Ta Nea's «Europe freezes as fascism rises» and Eleftherotypia's «Cold shivers: Le Pen beats Jospin!» The right-wing Eleftheros Typos said, «The modernizers are collapsing.»