Not even PASOK’s warmest supporters had anticipated that the party’s congress would pan out so smoothly – without whining, clashes and personal stratagems. The photos of Costas Simitis, George Papandreou and Evangelos Venizelos chatting, all smiles, with the party’s current president, Nikos Androulakis, speak volumes about the prevailing mood at the three-day event.
After all, it is this sense of unity and the momentum created by Androulakis’ election as new party leader which has helped the party grow to double digits in the opinion polls, climbing close to the until-recently unimaginable 15 percent.
The congress, admittedly more of a celebratory fete, did very little to showcase PASOK’s policy program. It did however put the spotlight on new faces from around Greece; people with strong skills and fresh ideas that hold true to the tradition which dictates that most of the country’s political class originate from PASOK. A look at the key officials inside New Democracy and SYRIZA will convince any skeptics.
However, Androulakis’ greatest advantage in this new start for the party is the disappointment of center-left voters who once turned their back on the formerly dominant socialists to vote for SYRIZA. They saw the SYRIZA-led government pursue a so-called “proud negotiation” that pushed Greece to the brink of catastrophe before signing up to a third bailout accord that brought further economic misery. And after SYRIZA was swept out of power, they saw Alexis Tsipras’ party engage in sterile rejectionism littered with fringe ideas and outdated leftist rhetoric. All these people are now mulling a return to PASOK.
The big wager for Androulakis is luring back all those voters under the PASOK roof. Many of them now realize that PASOK was right in 2012 to throw its weight behind efforts to save the country from bankruptcy when political foes vowed to tear up the memorandum agreements or made pie-in-the-sky promises.
Androulakis’ next major goal must be to hammer out a pragmatic, progressive blueprint for governing the country; to put forward a plan that will propose solutions to people’s problems, sticking to facts rather than telling voters what they want to hear. It must show all these folk who wish to give PASOK another chance that the party is prepared to assume its due responsibilities in running the country and help steer the country clear of fresh adventures.