Delayed facelift

The radical overhaul of PASOK’s Executive Bureau and the election of Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis as candidate for the position of party general secretary both underscored the premier’s intention to revamp the Socialist movement and to pick a fight with cadres whose presence and contribution has shaped the character of the ruling party and helped it win the 2000 elections. Costas Simitis’s determination, expected to mark his next moves in reshuffling the government and setting up a political directorate, shows that he is bracing to break with PASOK’s past and to refashion a social democratic party that will be closer to Western European, if not Anglo-Saxonic standards and more open to market forces. This course – which is clearly reflected in his staggering change of replacing the former general secretary, Costas Laliotis, with Chrysochoidis – will also show itself in the makeup of the new Cabinet, which is expected to follow a more liberal line in the economy and in the State’s relations with the private sector. Faced with New Democracy’s lead in the polls, Simitis is launching an overture to the market. In order to facilitate it, he is picking the cadres that will be most conducive to such a move. The government and the party are expected to have a common face, whose profile will be closer to Tony Blair than to Laliotis, a typical right-basher. Simitis’s latest initiatives are welcome – barring two important reservations. First, the prime minister has himself used right-bashing rhetoric in the past. One therefore wonders whether this is a substantial move or merely another attempt to create impressions – meaning that Simitis is changing course after seeing that his right-bashing tactics have come to nought. Second, and more importantly, Simitis is in the final months of his second term. Changes like the ones being pushed now would have stood a better chance of yielding fruit had they taken place following his re-election in 2000 and in time to prepare the groundwork for the Third Community Support Framework. It seems that Simitis’s reforms have arrived too late. «We must overcome our inhibitions,» Simitis said on the issue of waste disposal sites; and he seems to have shed all his inhibitions at the level of political party and government. As he said (again regarding the landfills), «We’re late, we’re late.»

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