PASOK looks to the left

As each of the country’s parties evaluate the results of the municipal and regional elections, measuring gains and analyzing their mistakes, they have also begun to plan their strategies for the national elections that are due by early 2004. The conservative New Democracy party is expected to try to build on the constituencies of farmers and lower urban strata, where it showed unprecedented gains last Sunday and the previous weekend, taking many traditional left-wing citadels. PASOK, on the other hand, appears to have concluded that it will be unable to face national elections without forging an alliance with other parties – with the first and obvious preference being the small Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos). Opinion polls have lately been showing the Coalition hovering around the 3 percent threshold for getting into Parliament. But cooperation with the Coalition gave PASOK eight of the 22 prefectures that it won in these elections. ND won 30 and another two went to independents. Yesterday, government spokesman Christos Protopappas signaled which way the ruling party was looking. «We have the frank, clear and open desire to create a progressive pole of the forces of the center-left and left in Greece. Let us all understand that this is our strategic choice,» he said. «The first conclusions have been drawn, and we judge as especially positive our cooperation with other left-wing forces, especially the Coalition. And this gives us the feeling that we must examine further steps in our proposals in the immediate future,» he added. «We are not talking about seasonal alliances, because these are always to be condemned. We are talking about moving along together politically, along issues, programs, principles and values.» Coalition president Nikos Constantopoulos tried to cool PASOK’s ardor, saying that his party «will continue to be in opposition to the government’s policies.» But sources said that PASOK is preparing to take initiatives to bring the two parties closer. New Democracy’s inner debate was still dominated by the candidacy of Yiannis Tzannetakos, a centrist who is not an ND member, for the post of super-prefect of Athens-Piraeus. This was ND’s biggest loss in the elections. The party’s chief strategist, Giorgos Souflias, and its general-secretary, Vangelis Meimarakis, were forced to issue a joint statement yesterday denying reports of a dispute between them.