‘PASOK has got to go:’ Souflias

On the fifth floor of 1 Veniris St, beside the Hilton Hotel, Giorgos Souflias is swamped by paper. Glancing at the Acropolis, he sighs at what he calls «the wasted years of the past. «Simitis bears much of the responsibility,» he says, «because he was only concerned about his future place in history and nothing else. It’s apparent from the lack of interest he showed in domestic politics. He ignores current Greek reality; he doesn’t know about people’s everyday problems and his attention has been consistently on matters that highlight and promote himself.» ‘He would have intervened’ When Kathimerini says he is hard on Simitis, Souflias persists, saying: «If the prime minister knew the situation, he would taken timely action on health; he would have been personally involved in the type of reform that [former Health Minister] Alekos Papadopoulos chose; he would have intervened in the Education Ministry, where he keeps on a bad minister, and he certainly would have replaced Costas Laliotis a long time ago because he would have seen that his methods delayed projects and made them extremely expensive. «But what I hold against him most is that he did nothing to hold back the wave of corruption that has polluted this entire society. He tolerated the involvement of entrepreneurs in managing the resources of the Greek people. He permitted them to share spoils unhindered and corruption reached much higher levels than we imagine, as former supreme court prosecutor Kroustallakis pointed out.» To our objections that the premier is an honest politician, Souflias respond: «That isn’t enough, and his responsibility may be even greater because he agreed to the game that way, with the result that the numerous small party nuclei in the State adopted extreme behavior in order to impose a regime of kickbacks throughout public life. Wherever I go, I hear the public protesting and they are infuriated by this climate of corruption that has invaded everywhere. «PASOK has got to go,» continues Souflias, «because it has made everything rotten, it is weary and, after all, that’s what the democratic system demands.» Conversation with the architect of ND’s party platform reveals that the opposition will fight by criticizing the way the country has been governed and by trying to capitalize on the public’s evident dissatisfaction. Asked whether such a tactic was sufficient to get ND into power and if it met the needs of the electorate, Souflias says it isn’t and that ND will present an alternative program before the elections and would avoid making many promises. «We won’t promise handouts,» he says. «You’ll see that in Thessaloniki. You’ve seen it in our program for health and for agriculture, where we didn’t promise handouts to the farmers. Our program is clear; it will be notable for the precision of its proposals, which will be ready to implement and will have considerable effect.» He predicts that by November his party’s programs for public administration and the economy will be made public. Concerned Souflias does admit, however, that PASOK will put up a tough battle. In no way does he underestimate the mobilization that Simitis instigated after the replacement of Laliotis with Chrysochoidis. He acknowledges that the former public order minister is effective and he seems concerned by the fact that PASOK has reserves that can produce party officials. He also seems concerned by the position and attitude of the media during the election campaign. Assessing the television scene, he realizes that ND will get almost hostile treatment from the television networks. Souflias also mentions the recent activity on the stock exchange, and warns: «This time, the government must not yield to the temptation to get involved in Sophocleous St. It has to learn to leave the market alone, to evaluate conditions and act accordingly.» He does not rule out the possibility of the stock market rising in response to hopes for political change and of ND taking power. «That’s why the government should stay away,» he says. Tough battle Nevertheless, Souflias believes ND will win the elections, though he realizes it will have to put up a strong fight with a an opponent that «possesses alliances and has the support of a great variety of forces which are not short of influence or methods.» A veteran politician, Souflias is an obsessive worker with a sense of responsibility. His direct, clear discourse is provocative, and he does not hesitate to criticize ND. He would like to see more energy, more intensive preparation, more young members and perhaps a clearer ideological front. As he bids us farewell at the elevator, he concludes: «PASOK has got to go; it’s been clinging to power for too long and the country can’t take it any more.»