PASOK and ND trade cadres as divisions fall

In one of the strangest twists in Greek politics in recent years, two former senior members of the New Democracy party, who were vilified by PASOK as the high priests of Greek Thatcherism, said yesterday that they were accepting the ruling Socialists’ invitation for cooperation in the March 7 elections. PASOK’s new leader, George Papandreou, in a speech on Monday, had issued an invitation to «leftists» and «liberals» to join in «to deal together with the opportunities and dangers of the new era.» Stefanos Manos, who had served as economy minister in the New Democracy government of 1990-93, and Andreas Andrianopoulos, who had served as commerce minister, said they would heed the invitation. It had become clear recently that ND leader Costas Karamanlis would not be making any similar invitation. Earlier yesterday, Karamanlis announced that his party would be cooperating with the Democratic Renewal Party of Stelios Papathemelis, a former PASOK minister who left the Socialists about two months ago. Manos, leader of the Liberals, was elected to Parliament in 2000 in a deal with ND. Andrianopoulos was not in Parliament. The two men were widely seen as the proponents of the harshest neoliberal ideology, for which PASOK has repeatedly accused New Democracy. Papandreou welcomed the development. «We want the fresh air of new proposals and ideas. In this context we want to bring close to us all restless citizens and politicians,» he said yesterday. Officially, leading PASOK members expressed support for the collaboration with Manos and Andrianopoulos, but in private many wondered whether PASOK might lose votes to smaller leftist parties while also being deprived of the ability to bash New Democracy for neoliberal ideas. Manos and Andrianopoulos said they were ready to work with PASOK while maintaining their political and ideological independence. «We are ready to respond to George Papandreou’s invitation to participate in the effort to change Greece, to prepare for the coming world that is difficult, competitive and full of opportunities. For the first time, there is a hope that the division between Left and Right will break and will create something new,» Manos said. Andrianopoulos added, «Maintaining my political autonomy but also my ideological identity, I feel ready to respond to George Papandreou’s invitation to change many things in modern Greece and to walk with confidence toward the future.» New Democracy did not make any official comment, but leading cadres said they were keen to see how PASOK would keep up its tried-and-tested method of blaming the conservatives for all the country’s ills, under the umbrella slogan that «the people cannot forget the Right.» Synaspismos Left Coalition commented: «The crossing over of Messrs Manos and Andrianopoulos makes official the neoliberal mutation of PASOK under the leadership of Mr Papandreou. No leftist alibi can hide this simple truth.»