OPINION

Editorial

Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s presence at the opening day of the ruling PASOK Party Congress and the delegates’ overall reactions confirmed that what appeared as a tough challenge for the premier a few months ago has turned out to be a conventional re-election procedure, potentially with a higher percentage than the one he received in 1999. Simitis himself adapted his speech to the new circumstances. He did challenge party dissenters, calling for a clear mandate and a clear answer to evasions and denials, but he preferred not to expand on this issue but rather devote most of his time to attacking the conservative opposition. Simitis’s reaffirmation could also boost government performance, as the perpetuation of the crisis within PASOK would have a negative impact on the country, especially in the highly volatile present. But it does not immediately solve the problems which have paralyzed the government. This requires more than just the cessation of party strife. Simitis must not allow concerns about the potential political cost to obstruct the requisite pro-modernization policies. However, the above may not prove enough. The very fact that Simitis – who was re-elected to the PASOK leadership in 1999 and prime minister in 2000 – has asked for a clear mandate (which ought to have been considered a given) shows that he thinks party dissent will resurface in the future, and force him to invoke his renewed mandate. At the same time, Simitis, who demanded clear answers from the intraparty opposition, may have opposed changes which undo what we have achieved so far, but he also advocated the adaptation of policies so that the social rights attained are safeguarded. He also indulged in right-bashing rhetoric which is parochial and incompatible with his political style – a style which played a fundamental role in the electoral victories of a modernizing PASOK. Viewed in this light, and given his expected predominance – which, notably, is much due to the global crisis – the prime minister is not exactly reaping laurels but is rather burdened with additional responsibilities. More specifically, the need to overcome intraparty problems is forcing him to carry out the government program which he has been mandated to implement. The clear mandate has to be followed by a clear policy.