OPINION

Editorial

Prime Minister Costas Simitis received the strong mandate he had asked for at the gathering of the ruling PASOK party, which he was forced to bring forward in response to party dissent that began mounting in the spring. The fact that Simitis actually improved on his performance from the previous congress in 1999 – which was also helped by the highly volatile global environment – marked an overwhelming victory over his opposition within the party. Given the congress result, the public has legitimate expectations that the prime minister will stop invoking – either directly or indirectly – the controversial excuse that it was party critics who enfeebled government performance. The prime minister and ruling party chairman has to make sure that PASOK does not prevent him and his government from carrying out the program they were mandated to implement at the April 2000 elections. In any case, the reassertion of Simitis’s power inside the party has removed what he saw as a major obstacle. Simitis got what he asked for, so now he and his policy will be put to the test. Now that he has strengthened his hand within PASOK, he must demonstrate what he wanted to do but was unable to due to inner-party dissent. The striking capitulation of party dissenters at the assembly proved that their criticism did not stem from political differences – for if one has substantial disagreements, then one stands for his views to the end – but rather involved self-serving objectives that remained unfulfilled. The 6th PASOK Congress is now history. The prime minister does not have much time at his disposal, as he is already nearly halfway into the government term with a disproportionately small number of government accomplishments so far. It is imperative to accelerate government performance, but this is rendered even more difficult by the unfavorable international climate. Simitis’s easy predominance at the congress should not lead him to underestimate the impending challenges. He should keep in mind that it was government mistakes and shortcomings which undermined the government’s ties with the broader social strata and encouraged the development of party opposition which hitherto had been almost non-existent.