Resistance within ruling New Democracy, reactions from PASOK make for an interesting political season

With the beginning of fall, the political arena has become very interesting, first of all due to the obstacles the government is facing in its effort to change the structure and mentality of the public sector, and secondly, because of the way the leadership of the opposition PASOK party has chosen to launch an attack to wear down the government. The combination of these factors has already led to tension in the political arena (on which certain media ownership groups are casting light or shadows, depending on their own purposes). Although introducing changes and reforms that polls show are acceptable to the majority of the people, the government is in a difficult position. This is chiefly due to the fact that within the ruling party structure, at its heart and on its fringes, the policies of change are leading to violent reactions of various kinds. The party’s largely antiquated structures do not leave much room for any new understanding of the country’s political and social issues, or for a new way of exercising politics, given the decades-long prevalence of a party-state mentality. So resistance is growing among the ranks of the New Democracy party, causing problems for the government and angering the prime minister, who has been telling his associates that he will not give an inch on his reform policy, no matter how strong the resistance from traditionalists and regardless of how it is exploited by the opposition. The other issue is the PASOK leadership’s policy toward the government: Incapable of drawing up and presenting proposals to remedy the ills plaguing the indebted economy and the antiquated, inflexible public administration, the party leadership is playing what it sees as its only useful card – a public relations campaign to wear down the government politically, with a focus on the prime minister himself. Even senior PASOK cadres are resorting to insults against Karamanlis, with the backing of the otherwise «modern-minded» party leader George Papandreou. This nervous «policy» that the PASOK leader has embarked upon is typical of views of the political situation held by para-political circles who still believe that they can influence events to a considerable degree. It is these circles who are questioning (once more), with the support of some of the media, Papandreou’s ability as a leader and as a rival to Karamanlis. Their fears are based on real concerns at the prospect of a second electoral victory for Karamanlis at the end of his term or even earlier, in 2007. Such an outcome would remove them from the game of political influence once and for all. Papandreou is depending once again, and being encouraged, to deploy all-out attacks against the government in the hope of doing so much harm to Karamanlis’s leadership that expectations of a PASOK victory will not seem illogical. Thus, for the time being at least, disappointment within the party over its leader’s performance is being put on the back burner, along with the serious problem of PASOK’s lack of policies. Also unanswered is the question of a possible alternative leadership. Just as nebulous is the question being raised by certain party cadres regarding a major comeback for (former prime minister) Costas Simitis – a solution that other PASOK cadres say would be nothing short of desperate and doomed.