From compromise to crisis

Anyone who has been following domestic political developments over the past seven years should have expected nothing more from the prime minister’s remarks on Thursday regarding the burgeoning crisis. A proponent of «static politics» ever since his first election in 1996, Costas Simitis could not have reacted any differently. He had no time nor adequate preparation for a more dynamic response. As a result, he resorted to his all-too-familiar tactic of trying to buy political time, hoping he will get a chance to close the case in the meantime. Besides, Simitis has often done so in the past. He has tried to contain crises without upsetting the balance, always taking a middle-of-the-road approach that will cause the least possible damage. In ’96 he sought to compromise with party dissenters. He tried to compromise with business circles (which needed him to cover their backs in return for backing him) turning a blind eye to the ensuing entanglement. In ’97 and ’98 he advocated a liberal economic approach in order to achieve nominal convergence, choosing not to combat the core of the fiscal problem and thus condoning creative accounting and fudging of economic figures, as was blatantly reflected in the stock market bust. Even after only just managing to get re-elected in 2000, Simitis avoided radical measures. He insisted on his deft managerial touch, making continuous concessions that left all potential hot spots untouched. His stance, however, shaped a web of intertwined interests that nourished a system of power which, in turn, guaranteed tolerance and impunity for a broad circle of self-interested figures. The current crisis is merely an expression of this long career of concessions. Long-simmering conflicts finally led to clashes, breaking the protection shield. The government is paying the price of this policy. PASOK officials should realize this instead of protesting.