NEWS

Simitis vs the barons

Prime Minister and Chairman of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) Costas Simitis yesterday chastised party barons for following «personal goals and strategies» and warned them that an electoral defeat for PASOK would not spare them. Speaking on the first day of a two-day session of PASOK’s Central Committee, Simitis attributed most of the difficulties the government is currently facing to the fact that its work is a long-term project still in progress. «The results that determine the success of government policies are not achieved from one Sunday to another, or between opinion polls. They will come in their own good time, according to plan, and they will be appreciated by the people,» Simitis said. The reference to Sundays and polls was not haphazard: Further opinion polls, to be published at the end of the month, are expected to confirm PASOK’s considerable lag behind conservative New Democracy party. Simitis also took a jab at his own ministers, who tend to give interviews to Sunday newspapers, criticizing aspects of government policy outside the realm. The latest example of a Sunday interview was by former Health Minister Alekos Papadopoulos, who announced his retirement from politics without first informing Simitis. Simitis also attacked New Democracy for its opposition tactics: «Behind its nihilism, one can see its thirst for power and its inability to propose solutions. It is a right [wing party] that dare not speak its name.» PASOK does not face national elections until Spring 2004, but there is widespread belief that this time it will not avoid defeat, surrendering power to New Democracy for the first time since October 1993. Meanwhile, it faces a tough test in the upcoming local government elections in October, with all other parties, with the exception of the Left Coalition, resolutely ranged against it. In many cases, the right and the left are ready to join forces against PASOK incumbents Following Simitis’s lead, most speakers recognized that the party was too preoccupied with the personal ambitions of would-be successors for its own good. Criticism, for the most part, was muted. On the other hand, little attention was paid to the speakers, with most Central Committee members huddled in small groups, outside the conference room. To some extent, most of them are already preoccupied with the post-Simitis era.