NEWS

Papandreou sets party strategy, program

Thanassis Tsouras, who is George Papandreou’s adviser on party issues as well as a being a candidate in Athens’s first electoral district, said Papandreou is solely responsible for the ruling party’s campaign strategy and its electoral platform. In this interview with Kathimerini, Tsouras made it quite clear that the sole candidate to replace Costas Simitis – who has announced his withdrawal as party leader ahead of an ad hoc party congress next month to elect a new party leader – will be keeping a clear distance from the previous government’s record in sectors where there have been failings. «Wherever there are vested interests, client relations, these will be quashed,» said Tsouras, referring to the changes Papandreou is expected to bring to PASOK. At the same time, he let it be known that Papandreou was not intending to get rid of the party’s old guard. «The only criterion will be service to the ‘new beginning’ with passion, ethos and consistency,» he said. Meanwhile, Tsouras also attacked the main opposition New Democracy party for what he said was its hypocrisy. Papandreou’s initial statements have contained a strong dose of self-criticism. How compatible is this approach with Simitis’s declared position that the last eight years have been fruitful for Greece? It is clear that the one does not rule out the other. Is there anyone – apart from New Democracy – who denies that Greece has taken major strides over the past eight years, that the major goals have been achieved without question? Greece’s accession to the European Economic and Monetary Union, Cyprus’s entry to the European Union, the improvement in Greek-Turkish relations, the improvement of Greece’s standing in the globalized international environment, the very important infrastructure created, the very good preparations for the Olympiad, the successful European Union presidency – these did not happen by themselves. They are steps that were carefully studied, and taken with knowledge as well as courage. So what new features will the foreign minister be introducing? No one should be blind: There are the demands, the expectations and the problems of the new age. People expect these issues to be resolved with confidence and faith in George Papandreou, as the latest polls have shown. That is because they know, judging from his record, that he is aware of these issues and that he sets goals and achieves them. They expect things from us because we are «flesh of their flesh.» They reject our opponents because they pretend to be on their side while preparing to deceive them. They trust us because none of us has tried to deceive the Greek people by saying everything is perfect. In what sectors can we expect Papandreou to make changes? There are aspects of our policy that require re-examination. There are groups who are still on the fringes of society. There are the problems all people are experiencing in their daily lives. So we are pointing to the substance of these issues and engaging in self-criticism. We are asking the people to participate and to determine the major changes required – together. We guarantee that these will be changes with certainty. They will be changes with social sensitivity. We are looking them clearly in the eye and asking them to trust us. To say «no» to passivity and want to become active citizens, with responsibility and real participation in government – for the young people to lead with solidarity among the generations, as George Papandreou has emphasized. Over the past two weeks, Papandreou has had two meetings with Simitis to determine PASOK’s election campaign. Is there actually a «double leadership» in this sector? There is no question of that. Let me remind you that the prime minister, at PASOK’s Central Committee meeting, had called these ideas «ridiculous.» And that is what it is. Costas Simitis is the country’s prime minister and in a few weeks’ time, George Papandreou will be elected PASOK president by means of what are unprecedented – for Greek and for European politics – democratic procedures. Papandreou will lead PASOK in the elections and will receive a mandate to form a government on March 8. The party’s election campaign is its president’s responsibility, as is the party’s platform for the next four years. Everyone will be participating in this effort. The use of the term «democratic faction» is being heard as a way of including others outside PASOK. Should we expect changes in the ruling party after the elections. Could these include a change of name? PASOK, in its new beginning, is embracing all creative forces in this country and moving ahead together on building change, a new Greece, a new democratic faction. Wherever there are vested interests, client relationships, these will be quashed, overcome by the renewal we will bring by re-establishing a direct democracy in the way PASOK operates.