Buying time

Despite the extensive publicity that Cabinet secretary Socrates Cosmidis’s reform proposals received, they were effectively crushed under the weight of political expediency and treated as a forewarning of prime-ministerial plans. A more cautious approach, however, would have led to the conclusion that Costas Simitis has no political capital left to carry out such changes. Simitis’s room to maneuver is limited. So is his power to overcome resistance from the parliamentary group. As a result, when he was informed of the fuss that arose inside the Socialist camp, he rushed (through the government spokesman) to distance himself from the proposals of his close aide. More cynical commentators believed that the release of Cosmidis’s proposals was more a publicity stunt to deflect public attention from Avriani’s allegations and shift the focus to less controversial issues. Indeed, Cosmidis is one of the premier’s closest aides and it is highly unlikely that he made a public intervention without having received Simitis’s nod of approval first. The premier has made no secret of the fact that his first priority is to bring the EU presidency to a successful conclusion. He has said that he plans to take some remedial action after that. According to sources, Simitis has no intention of opening up any internal fronts during this period. Despite his reassurances that he will take PASOK into the next elections, he still has to make up his mind on his personal strategy. The undeclared albeit crucial factor is the possibility that he could be picked as the head of the Commission. Any such move would be decided by the end of fall. If he is nominated for the post, he will give the green light for his replacement. If not, he will make up his mind on the basis of opinion polls. Should New Democracy widen its lead, Simitis could well step down to avoid a certain defeat. We just have to wait and see.

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