A few years after taking place, political party congresses are only remembered by those who were elected into council, their closest friends, those who have something to gain and by those who took the opportunity during the boring speeches to engage in some flirtation. These congresses rarely produce any kind of policy and even more rarely do they challenge what the governing members of the party have already decided. It is logical, therefore, that party congresses are quickly consigned to the archives of political historians, who, because of their job, don’t have the right to complain of being mind-numbingly bored by reading through the minutes of congresses and trying to finding something interesting in all the tripe.
So those who remember PASOK’s most recent congress a few years from now will do so not as the congress where party leader Evangelos Venizelos triumphed, but as the meeting where former party chief George Papandreou earned adulation and reverence when he stepped up to cast his vote.
Following his disappointment at the cold and rather tongue-in-cheek welcome he got at foreign universities where he has been lecturing on how to avoid a crisis, he must have been greatly buoyed by such an expression of camaraderie. Of course this congress was nothing like PASOK’s good old days, but beggars can’t be choosers.
PASOK may change leadership every once in a while, and ideas, but it remains the Papandreou family party. So it makes sense that at any meeting there will be a good number of fans in the crowd who will applaud George as they think of Andreas and remind Evangelos, or any other non-Papandreou party chief, that PASOK has its owners. The applause for Papandreou would have seemed strange only if the objective of the congress had been to judge his stint as prime minister – if he had admitted not so much to his personal inadequacy but to the inadequacy of his government, which taking the baton of bad management from the previous New Democracy administration, got Greece into this memorandum mess.
Sure, at last weekend’s congress there was a smattering of self-criticism, even though no more sincere than the confession to a priest of a sarcastic atheist. Anyway, who was there to complain about the 2009 government? Venizelos and the rest of its leading members?
They continue to argue that they saved Greece and reduced its debt, lauding their heroic parliamentary team, which ratified laws that had already been decided on.
Another great coup for Venizelos: He organized an entire congress meant to laud his triumph but which ended up applauding Papandreou, a politician who is not just defeated, but is also partly responsible for the defeat of the country.