Drastic measures

While Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis engages in talks with his EU peers at the Halkidiki summit about the future steps of European integration, his own party is in turmoil. The statement by the government spokesman, who left open the possibility of a replacement of the Socialists’ general secretary, triggered Costas Laliotis’s reaction. Laliotis attributed Christos Protopappas’s remarks to ignorance, confusion and the busybody attitude of the government spokesman, thereby sending his own message to the premier. As always, public remarks are only the tip of the iceberg. Even harsher words are uttered in private – and are not just targeted at the government spokesman. PASOK’s entire reformist group has come under fire for pressuring the prime minister to take extreme measures that involve sidelining the party’s old hands. As sources on Harilaou Trikoupi St say, the aim is to bring PASOK under the close control of Simitis and the aforementioned group of cadres. All this is interesting news but also has immediate repercussions on Greece’s actual governance. It creates a climate of political instability that has a negative impact on every aspect of political and economic life. In effect, PASOK’s internal divisions have burgeoned into a broader political crisis. As president of the European Union, Simitis will travel to Washington next week to meet with US President George W. Bush on the issue of transatlantic relations. This means that Simitis must leave important political decisions until the first couple of weeks of July. According to leaks from Simitis’s immediate environment, the changes will be drastic. Past experience mandates that we remain skeptical toward such leaks. But the fact remains that Simitis is faced with a number of fundamental political dilemmas: Will he stay on the same course, or forge a radical break? Will he maintain the current in-party equilibrium, or will he upset it? Will he leave the old guard untouched, or will he force them out of the administration? There is no certain answer to these questions for the time being. Perhaps the premier himself has yet to make up his mind on these issues. Even if he intends to make radical changes, it is far from certain that he would be willing to suffer the cost of an inner-party rift at a time when his leadership has been weakened.

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