PASOK drafts its suggestions amid some internal squabbling

That PASOK leader George Papandreou will be using the constitutional review to confirm his leadership is apparent only partly from his decision to appoint Theodoros Pangalos as the main rapporteur for his party’s proposals on the issue, rather than Evangelos Venizelos – the more logical choice because of his position in the party and mainly because of his professional background. Papandreou also wants to use the debate to raise a number of issues he feels will catch ND off guard and show how much more progressive the «new PASOK» is than the ruling party. By all indications, PASOK is preparing a broad agenda that will include political arguments for the review. In private talks, several cadres have said that many of the mistakes in the current constitution observed after the event were due to the technocratic approach adopted by PASOK during the previous review in 2001, an indirect aspersion on Venizelos, PASOK’s rapporteur at the time. Papandreou shares this view and has allegedly given Pangalos carte blanche – even to criticize PASOK’s decisions in the 2001 review. A typical example is the proposal to found non-profit private universities – strenuously opposed by the academic establishment and Venizelos in 2001. Now it appears to be favored by PASOK and Papandreou himself. PASOK is also reportedly ready to compromise on parliamentary deputies’ other professional activities under certain conditions such as not allowing deputies who are lawyers to take cases against the state or to defend drug dealers or terrorists. While on these issues the two main parties are likely to reach agreement, that will not be so in all cases. According to sources, many PASOK cadres, including Pangalos, want to recommend the complete abolition of the controversial article on media owners not being permitted to conclude state contracts – another criticism of Venizelos – saying that in practice this has led to more problems than it was meant to solve, even after common ground was reached between the government and the European Commission. However, PASOK is expected to put its strongest political emphasis on the separation of Church and state. It believes the time is right for the public to accept such a move, as a way of resolving chronic problems due to anachronistic viewpoints long since overcome in modern European states (such as abolishing religious oaths, permitting cremation of the dead, changing the way priests are remunerated, and defining Church property assets). This proposal naturally has a clear political purpose – since the government has already refused to discuss separation, preferring to suggest changes by means of laws. PASOK will try to present ND as an ultra-conservative party that refuses to move with the times. The opposition will also be heading for a complete break with ND over Article 24 on forests, since PASOK believes the suggested changes serve specific interests. PASOK is also to reject the idea of a Constitutional Court, as it sees the only reason for the move as being an attempt to avert specific rulings. Finally PASOK’s agenda is also likely to refer to certain constitutional issues that Papandreou has referred to from time to time for the purpose of highlighting his progressive image. These include nationwide or local referendums and allowing migrants the vote, although there are many in PASOK who disagree, feeling that Papandreou is unfortunately still confusing (in some cases) Swedish reality with that in Greece. These objections promise that the debate will be of considerable political interest not only in itself but for its effect on the equilibrium within PASOK. For as Papandreou tries to confirm his position, the very nature of the debate offers deputies, particularly those seen as experts on constitutional issues, a chance to present their own political stances.

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