OPINION

Commentary

Close aides of Costas Simitis have reassured all interested parties that the prime minister decided upon the new government lineup without prior consultations or negotiations with the figures who were given the portfolios. The prime minister made his choices and merely announced the new makeup of the government. In doing so, Simitis showed that having strengthened his hand with a fresh and clear mandate from the PASOK Party Congress, he is now determined to make decisions based on his own personal judgment, without prior discussions or bargaining with outgoing or new ministers. This approach may be presented as being indicative of the leverage that the prime minister has inside PASOK. But is a government reshuffle, in fact an extensive one, a suitable case for power-display by the party leader? If things indeed took place in the way that Simitis’s close aides have described them, it makes sense to assume that the new Cabinet lineup includes several figures who were assigned to posts they did not really wish to hold, either because they performed well in their previous ministries, because they are not keen on their new competency or, perhaps, even because they are not familiar with their new duties and they will need additional preparation. What does it indicate when the prime minister names a party official to a particular ministry without having first asked him or her whether they can fulfill their new duties, and whether they are really willing to work intensively in their new field? Had these been discussed, would that be labeled as negotiation or bargaining? It seems that according to the political elite, the issue is rather simple: All ministers should be pleased merely by virtue of being ministers. The rest lies with the prime minister, and it does not really matter what a minister may think of his or her new duties. What matters, rather, is whether the prime minister can shape the government in line with his preferences and, above all, in a way that makes him feel politically secure. During his two-day visit, Prodi is expected to stress that, although Brussels would prefer a political solution, its absence will not prevent the republic’s accession.