Wanted: The next leaders

Whatever happened to big political leaders? Has the PR-driven, postmodern political setting brought about the eclipse of high-caliber politicians? In his latest book, «Wanted: Alchemists» (Kastaniotis, 2005), presented yesterday at a packed downtown cafe, the exuberant polymath Mimis Androulakis grapples with the fashionable if not cliche question. Politician and author Androulakis, once dubbed «the biggest blasphemer in Christendom,» whizzes through historical political figures from Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle to local and more recent political figures, such as former prime ministers Andreas Papandreou, Constantine Mitsotakis and Costas Simitis, whose political legacy is still up for debate. The event drew crowds from across the domestic left-right spectrum, including Simitis and PASOK MP Evangelos Venizelos from the Socialist camp, as well as Mitsotakis and conservative Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis from the right-wing New Democracy party. A lifelong leftist, Androulakis gained political prominence with a coalition of communist and left-of-center parties. He left the political scene in 1993 only to make a noisy return by joining George Papandreou’s «new» PASOK last year. In 2000, Androulakis sparked protests by Christian zealots after publishing a book that fictionalized the sexual longings of Christ. The book was denounced by the Church as «vile» and got a temporary ban. Speaking about his latest work, Androulakis said the leaders that feature in his book were far from perfect. «From every leader presented in this book, I got that ‘something’ that we can offer to the younger generation. It is difficult to be a leader today now that everyone agrees we need leadership talent but at the same time run down the role of leaders,» he said. «We must make way for the younger generation, without the older, more experienced generation withdrawing, as they can become even more productive after 65,» he said in an apparent dig at the ongoing controversy within PASOK. Papandreou recently sparked a new wave of navel gazing among PASOK cadres, suggesting it was time for the old guard to step down and vowing to renew his party.