Planning in vain

After the ordeal of Greece’s presidency of the European Union, Prime Minister Costas Simitis is giving serious thought to the upcoming government shake-up and to measures he could take in order to reverse the negative climate for PASOK ahead of national elections due within the year. According to Greece’s Constitution, reshuffling the government is an exclusive prerogative of the prime minister and Simitis has always insisted on exercising this right without consulting his parliamentary or party aides. This is a remarkable sign of self-confidence. Even the late Socialist prime minister Andreas Papandreou, PASOK’s founder, always made sure to give the impression of consulting his aides before moving on to shake up his government. Even so, the premature announcement of the pending reshuffle has contributed to the ongoing government paralysis and sparked a deluge of political forecasts and speculation. But in essence, Simitis can neither launch a ground-breaking reshuffle – for this would mean reappointing persons whom he deeply dislikes – nor undertake radical measures to restore the government’s tarnished image. In practice, there are no reformists left to recruit. Simitis and his like-minded aides are a minority inside PASOK. And the real reason the premier is in conflict with the party’s old guard is the deep antipathy between the two sides and an inability to communicate. PASOK is now made up of middle-aged figures who comprise the country’s political and economic elite, but whose genuine political contribution is scarce. The «Movement» of 1974 has come full circle. The only thing PASOK can hope for is to stay out of power for a while and then stage a comeback under a new leadership. But this will not help PASOK out of its current political death rattle, which will be prolonged until the parliamentary elections (most likely in April), only because Simitis believes he still has something to offer. However, the policy of the Simitis government was a one-way street and its basis had already been set by previous administrations, its main characteristic being the adaptation – in some cases, a forceful one – to EU demands. Simitis wants all the credit for Greece’s membership of the eurozone, but this success was the product of coordinated work by all political parties and the labor force. It is easy to be decisive and successful when everyone, for better or worse, is supporting a specific policy. The problem is that convergence with Europe has been nominal, the public has suffered from his policies, and his political planning is in vain.

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