NEWS

Costas Simitis gets his fifth mandate in as many years

Costas Simitis was rebaptized as leader of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) at the end of the party’s 6th Congress last Sunday (October 14). With no opponent, he was elected with 71.12 percent of ballots cast, as opposed to 68.65 percent at the previous congress. It is significant that Simitis should run unopposed and win, because most of the time he runs against himself and barely manages to avoid defeat. Yet, time after time, he has managed to get something done without falling from power. But the fact that he does not have the charisma of his predecessor, the late Andreas Papandreou, means that Simitis has repeatedly felt the need to renew his mandate and shore up his credibility. Simitis has now been elected PASOK’s leader at three party congresses. In the last, he saw his main rival, Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos, rise to challenge his policies and then slink away without having anything specific of his own to propose. The prime minister has led PASOK to electoral victory in 1996 and 2000, in the latter case scraping home in front of conservative New Democracy by just 1 percent. Now, with no visible rival within PASOK, and with New Democracy expressing similar centrist policies and therefore no great threat to reforms, one might expect Simitis to at last dare to govern the way he says he wants to: Without considering the political cost. Last year, he said that 2001 would be crucial for his government’s reforms. With most of it wasted in the stalled social security reforms, perhaps now, with yet another mandate, Simitis will tackle the challenges of this difficult time and succeed in modernizing Greece by 2004, the year of the Olympics and the next elections.