The successor shares responsibility for the past

Political developments have been rapid over the past two weeks, but we have seen no change in your strategy. We aren’t changing our strategy for two reasons. The first is that our policy has focused attention on the public’s real problems: The new poverty, the income squeeze, unemployment, high prices, inequality and the unacceptable state of health and education. We have put forward persuasive proposals and solutions, so people trust us. The second reason is that this strategy brought PASOK up against a complete impasse. Do you mean that PASOK was cornered by its own policy? Precisely. Speaking to Greeks openly about life in language everyone understands, we have shown that solving citizens’ problems is top priority for New Democracy. We know the problems, we put forward solutions and we are determined to implement them. We are free of commitments and dependencies. And that is why the prospect we propose is being espoused by a growing majority. All of that is registered in public opinion polls based on past data. But George Papandreou’s assuming the leadership of PASOK creates a new setting. And what will change with Papandreou? What changed with the shuffle? What changed with the ousting of Costs Laliotis? What changed with the «deactivation» of Theodoros Pangalos? PASOK is still PASOK. Shared itineraries, shared responsibilities, shared dependencies and interests. The issue is that a small, closed circle of people is exploiting the state and public funds and is thriving at the expense of the many. Its only concern is how to maintain the situation. This system can see it is collapsing. What has happened to its famous ace? Isn’t the supposedly most suitable prime minister suitable any more? In its desperation, the system is attempting a final diversionary move. The window display may be changing but it’s the same old store. Do you believe then that a change of leadership in PASOK will not signal changes in the ruling party’s policies? It depends what one means by «change» and «policy.» I have no doubt that shortly we are going to hear and see a lot – fine words, grand promises and impressive declarations. We certainly are not going to hear Pangalos describe Papandreou as «unsuitable for prime minister,» or Evangelos Venizelos mentioning the «opportunistic ambitions,» or Christos Papoutsis talking about «the pressure of interests.» If that’s a change of policy, well and good. But we all know that it has no effect on the elections. The public don’t have personal problems with Prime Minister Costas Simitis. They are voting against the policies of the PASOK government for which all those who are going to ask for Greeks’ votes under Papandreou are collectively responsible. Citizens vote against poverty, unemployment, high prices, social inequality and injustice, and the wretched state of the health system. They vote against bad management, inefficiency and the corruption that has made the state a despot over citizens and bound to vested interests. They vote positively for New Democracy because they demand that the country turn over a new leaf, because they want new prospects with new policies, new people and new ideas. But Papandreou is also a new person, who is being promoted as a major change in PASOK. I agree that he is being promoted a lot. I told you before what any new leader can do, whether their name is George Papandreou, Vasso Papandreou or Evangelos Venizelos. Venizelos says he is withdrawing from the race. Yes, excuse me. In this race nobody knows who is running and who has already booked his seat behind the scenes. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that as a new deputy, Papandreou will guarantee the continuation of the PASOK we all know. Namely, the PASOK of the stock exchange, of the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE), of tax raids, the circles that prey on the health system, of non-transparent procedures in major projects and armaments programs. Perhaps you should reserve your criticism for foreign affairs, which is Papandreou’s responsibility. But Papandreou was a member of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) when the decisions about commissions for armaments programs were made by non-transparent procedures, just as he has been a member of the cabinet for two decades. He is one of the longest-serving ministers and has jointly signed all the decisions which we denounce and for which the public have paid dearly. I take his recent statement in Magnesia about corruption and problems with health and education as self-criticism. His next step should be to apologize in person to the Greek people.

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