Greatly satisfied with the majority he won at the ruling PASOK party congress, Prime Minister Costas Simitis is now about to proceed with a government reshuffle that will signal a fresh start. It is common knowledge that, a few months ago, the prime minister deemed a party congress the only way to defuse mounting dissent and fulfill the public mandate he received at the parliamentary elections 18 months ago, in April 2000. The results of the congress have been examined by the party leadership and provide the basis for a Cabinet reshuffle, which will also be a victory prize for the so-called pro-modernization bloc of the ruling party. Ironically, the assembly, where the reformists prevailed over their party rivals, showed no signs of PASOK’s own modernization but was rather marked by retrogressive elements. About 6,500 delegates uttered lusty cheers and shouted slogans to express their support for the leadership and the various top speakers – genuine political discourse was conspicuous by its absence. At the same time, the leadership clearly tried to identify the organized voters of the party with the Greek people in general and to advertise PASOK as the only genuine expression of the country’s democratic forces – one ready to win spectacular victories to the benefit of Greek society in all future electoral battles. The congress speakers gave the impression that they wished to see a ruling party that always comes out on top in Greece merely by baying. In the wake of the congress, then, the prime minister feels that he has strengthened his hand over his critics and renewed his political apparatus, which will allow him to continue with his modernizing reforms. Speaking clearly and frankly, PASOK deputy and former Health Minister Paraskevas Avgerinos said recently on Skai radio about the congress: This congress was anything but a party congress, it was a fiesta. Okay, there is nothing wrong with fiestas. We may even need one sometimes, but we do not have to call it a congress.

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