OPINION

The referendum excuse

Elections are seen as a catastrophic endeavor for the country, but a referendum would give us an instant taste of democracy, as it did on the issue of the PASOK party?s leadership, where, legend has it, 1 million people voted for George Papandreou to helm the party. At least that is what the almost former prime minister (or semi-prime minister, given that he is now sharing his power with the other semi-prime minister, Evangelos Venizelos, and with the troika) told Parliament.

Despite the cabinet reshuffle and the almost certain vote of confidence that will be won in Parliament (after so much talk about the risk of PASOK collapsing thanks to a handful of its own MPs put the party back on the straight and narrow), the new Cabinet has inherited from its predecessors an environment in which credibility is low, as is political and social legitimacy. And such ills are not easily remedied.

Papandreou?s mood swings, as they manifested themselves over that five-hour period last week when he maybe was and maybe wasn?t prime minister, are interesting on a political level rather than a psychological one. And this political aspect revealed a politician who is shaken to the core, addled, without a strategy, frightened of the burden of the problems he has to face and his feeling of weakness both personally and within his party.

His interlocutor during those five hours was New Democracy chief Antonis Samaras, who appeared just as frightened of the possibility of taking on many more responsibilities than those usually associated with the rhetoric of opposition. This balances things out only in that it pacifies some to think that the ?others? have also failed to rise to the occasion, just like a high jumper who runs to his target and lands on the mat, but only does so by passing beneath the bar rather than over it. A referendum is the bar that PASOK hopes to clear by going underneath it, even though it is much lower than the bar of elections.

One of the myths that was completely shot down over this past week of political confusion was PASOK?s much-touted proclivity for open governance. Yet top government officials had to switch on their televisions to learn about their leader?s contradictory initiatives, while the ministers who were on their way out also had to find out from the media.

Now, as if nothing has happened, the new government spokesman, using the excuse of a possible referendum, has begun talking about the need for more negotiations, for in-depth talks and other such important-sounding stuff. He too acquired a questionable legacy, that of shirking the truth.