Discord within PASOK party at leader’s opposition tactics

By C.P. Papadiochos – Kathimerini PASOK has upped the ante of its opposition tactics amid a climate of polarization that its leader George Papandreou has tried to create over in recent days, but leading cadres are seriously concerned as to how far the political rhetoric will be accompanied by specific policy decisions. According to close associates of the PASOK leader, his decision to intensify his assault on the government’s economic policy was inevitable for two reasons: First of all, he was faced with public opinion polls showing that the majority blamed the Simitis government for the country’s economic problems which led to the present government’s decision to impose more taxes. Secondly, he could not entirely rule out the possibility – though highly unlikely – that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis might take recourse to early elections in the fall. Prominent PASOK cadres believe polarization is a mistake, that the party is walking into a trap laid by New Democracy, allowing the latter to highlight the problems it inherited from its predecessor. They note that the difference in poll results for the two major parties is not so much because of gains for PASOK but due to ND’s losses to smaller parties or the ranks of the undecided. They also point out that Papandreou will not be able to maintain the momentum of his current opposition tactic throughout the term. There is also discord over whether PASOK should present its own platform on the country’s major problems. Cadres such as Vasso Papandreou, Anna Diamantopoulou, Alekos Papadopoulos, Costas Skandalidis, Michalis Chrysochoidis, Giorgos Floridis and Andreas Loverdos believe it necessary. Other top cadres, including Dimitris Reppas and Theodoros Pangalos, would prefer that priority be given to discrediting the government’s political initiatives. Papandreou’s approach, however, appears to represent the mean. He believes it premature for PASOK to present its government platform. Instead, he is in favor of creating a framework for the party’s policy on all major issues, beginning with the economy. At the same time, he has been persuaded by associates such as Thanassis Tsouras, Christos Papoutsis and Haris Kastanidis that opposition tactics on the economy should no longer focus on macroeconomic indicators but on the people’s «real problems.» Leading cadres believe that skyrocketing fuel prices expected over the next few months will upset basic budget indicators and that the government will be forced to impose additional taxes in the fall, further affecting the incomes of the middle- and lower-income groups, as well as its own popularity rating.

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