Souflias: All the heroes, messiahs, myths of PASOK can’t alter need for change

We have had rapid changes in the past few days – a change of leadership in PASOK and the announcement of elections. Have these events changed the political scene? Both calling early elections and Costas Simitis’s deciding to withdraw from the leadership in favor of George Papandreou in the face of electoral defeat are certainly important new events. But I don’t think they warrant talk of a new scene, and I’ll explain why. PASOK proves to be very strong on public relations but non-existent in society. It has abandoned the essence of politics – how to move the country forward, and is only interested in putting on a show. In the past few days, politics has been caught up in a PR whirl of imaginary heroes and messiahs. But in real life, there is no hero and no messiah. There is just one big truth which everyone knows, that the polls will judge the policies which caused the problems of the Greek people, and the policies that can deal with those problems. Plus ca change… You talk about heroes and messiahs. Could you say more about that? I’ll tell you what I mean. On one hand, they are trying to put Simitis across as a hero, but everything that is being said about his action supposedly being a breakthrough or an act of renewal is completely groundless. He saw that defeat was in sight and he retreated. If he had succeeded in the huge effort he made, in an unrestrainedly populist fashion, to reverse the climate, none of what is happening today would have happened. You can see that Simitis doesn’t even have the political courage to face the Greek people and ask them to judge his work. In a panic, he admits his defeat and failure. On the other hand, they are trying to present George Papandreou as a messiah. But how can they? Papandreou, who, by the way, is a likable politician, has never taken a stance on any of the major everyday problems of the public, but has jointly signed all of Simitis’s unsuccessful recipes which have plagued the Greek people. He remained silent in the face of those problems. Unlike Simitis, who succeeded Andreas Papandreou in 1996, he is not the agent of a new policy or a new group of party cadres who will try to change PASOK for the better. He is just a minister in the Simitis government who is being mobilized at the last minute, without an opponent within the party, in a hopeless attempt by the party chiefs to avoid a crushing electoral defeat. In every other respect, PASOK is still the same. The same people, the same policies, as Simitis said. I believe that when a government fails, the party has to change radically and not just change its leader. Around two years before the Spanish elections, center-right leader Jose Maria Aznar made it clear he would not stand for elections again. And a new party leader emerged, who has all that time ahead of him to forge a new leadership and new policies. By contrast, Simitis decided to withdraw at the last moment. He has drafted PASOK’s ballot papers, formulated its promises for the next four years and, as he himself said, PASOK will continue on the same course. Plus ca change… But Greece needs real changes, and that’s why it intends to make a new start.

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