FM: Greeks tired of corruption

Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who garners the highest public approval of all PASOK members, is a key figure in the government’s efforts to be re-elected. But he is also certain to be a key player in whatever happens inside PASOK whether the Socialists win or fail in the elections, as he is a likely successor to Prime Minister Costas Simitis. In a wide-ranging interview with Kathimerini yesterday, Papandreou reiterated his strong support of Simitis and his own efforts to help PASOK stay in office. But he also acknowledged that people were tired of bureaucracy, corruption and the pervasiveness of powerful vested interests. Asked to comment on rumors that Simitis might pull out of his party’s leadership before the elections, allowing his successor to fight the battle, Papandreou said: «We are at a critical political juncture in the completion of our work, the preparations for the elections, and the formulation of our strategy and vision for the next term. The prime minister himself is on the front line of this effort and we all have a duty to help in the struggle and serious work without getting involved in rumormongering.» And would he be a candidate for the party leadership after the elections? «I am struggling to create conditions for PASOK to win the elections once again. I have always been and will always be part of that effort. This for me is the great political challenge. I am not interested in scenarios or working hypotheses,» he said. But Papandreou noted also the many factors that had made the public feel tired of PASOK. «I believe that Greeks are indeed tired of having to deal with bureaucracy, they are truly disgusted with the extent of corruption in many sectors of the civil service and they find it unacceptable that all of society is held back by the petty interests of smaller or larger interest groups that want to dominate political life,» Papandreou said. He noted, though, that the government’s reform effort could save the day. «(The people) know that Greece has to push through reforms. The question is which party has the inner strength and conviction to do so. PASOK has shown that it can set Greece on the road to progress and change. PASOK governments have been identified with major changes that have benefited the country and its people. Costas Simitis has made this effort his life’s work, and this is something the vast majority of Greeks recognize,» Papandreou said. He stressed the necessity for such reforms, even at the expense of the party’s own identity. «I realize, however, that today many people believe that PASOK has itself become part of the establishment and that it is therefore incapable of carrying out the necessary initiatives,» Papandreou said. «That is the challenge we will have to rise to. I believe that PASOK is and can always be a living movement which, when necessary, can even contradict itself in order to better serve the country, and to transform itself into a new force for reform and change.»