NEWS

PASOK bogged down

The ruling PASOK party appears to be entering a period of crisis once again, through a combination of factors and incidents which have coincided with the time at which structural changes are expected to begin being introduced. This is despite the fact that Prime Minister Costas Simitis called a party congress in October in an effort to solidify support behind him and to put an end to the sniping from critics inside the party. A wave of coordinated reactions has hit the government at a time when the European Union is pressing for reform initiatives in the greatly problematic area of social security, a few days before the Labor Ministry opens a new dialogue on the issue; and vested interests are pressing to maintain their privileged relationship with the state sector. The initiative by Simitis’s former close aide, MP Theodoros Tsoukatos, to collect signatures from 44 colleagues in support of social security reform (but which placed conditions that not even the unions have demanded of the government), has jeopardized the outcome of a dialogue on the necessary reform. Prime Minister Simitis met with Parliament speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis yesterday. It was not clear what transpired. Despite being advised by aides to take «direct and harsh» action (such as calling a vote of confidence in Parliament or a meeting of the PASOK’s parliamentary caucus, or taking disciplinary measures against the 45) Simitis appears to have chosen to wait, reckoning that there are no magical solutions that can change the climate. Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos appeared to back the 45, saying, «I believe that the statement of our colleagues through their initiative to present a proposal to Parliament responds to the climate that exists in society.» All indications are that politics are slipping back into the familiar quagmire, from which only a reformist shove can free them.