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Chrysochoidis examines PASOK’s defeat

PASOK’s Michalis Chrysochoidis believes that both party leader George Papandreou and his main contender for the leadership Evangelos Venizelos are wrong about the reasons for PASOK’s defeat in last month’s general election. In this interview with Kathimerini, the former party secretary said PASOK had failed to open up to the middle class, and in drafting its platform had «chosen the easy way out by trying to outbid the other party with its economic platform.» Chrysochoidis distances himself from the previous administration of Costas Simitis, referring to «a superficial reform that served more as a glue that held things together on the road to power.» A few years ago you said that PASOK was completing a cycle and should look at the possibility of changes, even of its symbols or its name. In your announcement last Wednesday, you began with the phrase «We are PASOK.» Have you revised your earlier opinion? Politics can only be a process of maturation and development, otherwise you stop being useful to society. In fact, depending on the circumstances, you have to decide which battles are worth fighting. At that time, when PASOK was still in power and had the advantage, it also had a unique opportunity to guide the entire political system through a phase of radical reorganization. It did not do so, however, and the results are now visible to all. Today things are different. PASOK is in opposition and its priority is to reposition itself in the new age. Therefore it is far more important to modernize and integrate our timeless values and to build a new social alliance with the majority of Greeks who have been ignored and who are not represented by any political party, than to do battle with windmills, which stimulates strong emotions and reflex reactions among the party base. Every politician has to try and guide the people in the right direction without frightening them. You say that in PASOK, there are often two co-existing lifestyles – liberalism and false socialism. Could you give more specific examples? Unfortunately, there are many examples. For example, PASOK’s liberal and necessary opening to various minority groups was not balanced by a robust, modern and courageous opening to the great silent majority of the Greek middle classes who every day are seeing their expectations dashed and their prospects shrinking. Another example? Our platform took the easy way out of trying to outbid the ruling party in the economic sector; by definition, this is an area in which the ruling party has the advantage, not the opposition. Instead, we should have proposed a number of just reforms in health, education and public administration. For all of the above, what was to blame was the fact that we have not unified the many diverse parts of PASOK, as every inclusive party should do, under a comprehensive perception of Greek society. This is what I have attempted to do in the text I have submitted (http://www.chrisochoidis.gr/2007/10/03/eimaste-pasok). George Papandreou said the main reason for the electoral defeat lay with forces undermining the party from within. Evangelos Venizelos blames it on mistakes and omissions by the party leadership. Do you believe that their views, even partly, are correct? Both interpretations are incomplete and satisfy neither PASOK’s supporters nor, of course, the dictates of common sense. Basically, PASOK is experiencing a major crisis that naturally is reflected in the leadership’s actions. Therefore it is clearly not enough to choose a new leader without changing policies or the way we think about the world and society. Otherwise it is just another recipe for failure, and an even worse one next time. Most cadres in the former «reformist» bloc have aligned themselves with Venizelos. Is there still a «reformist» movement in the party? I have repeatedly said there is not. That has been the biggest failure of the reformist undertaking; it never managed to acquire political or organizational characteristics with a foothold in Greek society, let alone within PASOK. Unfortunately, despite the achievements on a national level, it was a shallow movement with regard to social structures and mentalities, and at the time served more as a glue that held things together on the road to power. You have called for a confrontation with the «ineffectual Left.» Do you not believe that PASOK should seek an electoral or political alliance with the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA)? I call for a confrontation with both versions of the Greek anti-reform movement: the conservative Right and the ineffectual Left, and the re-connecting of PASOK with the domestic and international movement of progressive reform and change, as has taken place in Greece and elsewhere. You know, the famous «left-hand turn» that PASOK resorts to with such ease is not in my opinion anything more than a reflex. An easy way to sweep problems under the rug is by declaring one’s leftist credentials. I am in favor of alliances, but not before we have clearly delineated the political outline and the scope of changes we want to bring about in society. Therefore, what are needed are agreements on policies and issues so that we know what we are talking about and with whom. What should the new electoral law be aimed at? Do you disagree with changes that will give the winning party a greater majority? What is urgently needed is a radical reorganization of the country’s political and electoral system, the redrawing of electoral regions, a review of the way deputies are elected, ways to monitor party funding and the strengthening of the parliamentary system. However, the New Democracy party is choosing to patch up the old law in an attempt to win votes. I don’t see any reason to go along with that initiative.