PM rallies the troops

The upcoming national elections will hinge on the degree of the voters’ trust in the economy, Prime Minister Costas Simitis told a gathering of ruling Socialists yesterday. Addressing the National Council of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) – a body comprising members of the Central Committee, the party’s MPs in the national and European parliaments, heads of prefectural-level party organizations, the youth wing leadership and top unionists – Simitis attacked conservative opposition New Democracy as an «aggressive neoliberal party,» whose proposals for the «refounding of the state» are a facade for the takeover of the State by the party, if it comes to power. Simitis told his fellow party members that «nothing has been decided yet» and that PASOK, which has ruled for 10 straight years and for 18 of the previous 22 years, could still win the elections next spring despite unfavorable opinion polls. He called on PASOK members to be alert and support the government’s policies so as to be «more convincing than the mechanisms of disinformation.» «The election result still depends on us and on whether we will fight together,» Simitis said. Despite these fighting words, however, nothing could hide the fact that the meeting was poorly attended and most of its participants showed a distinct lack of enthusiasm. This was remarked upon by PASOK General Secretary Michalis Chrysochoidis, who referred to party officials who «either absent themselves or fight among themselves in public.» Nikos Levoyiannis, secretary of PASOK’s parliamentary group, complained that several ministers acted as if they were following policies of their own, adding that it was this lack of coordination which allowed New Democracy to pose as a government-in-waiting. One of the local party branch leaders told the Council that individual party members were dismayed by the «personal strategies» followed by some top party members. Simitis’s speech made it obvious that the next moves by Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis will be crucial. The government hopes that, after the successful sale of an 11 percent stake in National Bank and other sell-offs, the economic climate will improve enough to give PASOK a chance at re-election.