Simitis’s motives

The removal of Costas Laliotis from the post of PASOK’s general secretary and his replacement by Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis stole the show at first, reinforcing expectations that PASOK would take a big leap of change, after stepping back twice in 1996 and 2000. However, yesterday’s reshuffle shattered any hopes of a radical overhaul and compromised the significance of Laliotis’s replacement. «The New PASOK lasted 10 hours» a Socialist cadre said, adding that the «reshuffle proved to be a bubble» and that «the entire fuss was made [in order] to get rid of Laliotis who dared question the chairman.» We don’t know if the explanation is that simple, or whether Simitis’s motives were that base. The fact is that the government’s new facelift was by no means drastic. Nor does the appointment of Alexandros Akrivakis, Vassilis Kontoyiannopoulos and Nikos Bistis (an overture to the Right and the Left respectively) mark a new beginning. In effect, «the reshuffle that never was» has highlighted the difficulties of the whole attempt and the slew of limitations that bind Simitis. The government’s interpretation of the feeble reshuffle – little time to brief any new figures in the key ministries and the unwillingness (or inability) of Simitis to clash with Akis Tsochadzopoulos – is an admittance of the boundaries, both objective and subjective, that the premier can’t overcome in his attempt to give the government a new profile. This interpretation, we must say, is not very convincing, if only because the root of the problem triggering Simitis’s reforms were, in fact, people of his own choosing. As a result, one may object that the lack of renewal in the government and PASOK is not just because of the old guard and Simitis’s inability to promote a new generation of senior cadres. Even if one sticks with the government’s explanation – i.e. the lack of time and the desire to disrupt relations with Tsochadzopoulos – the inexorable question remains: What did the prime minister do? If he was aware of these limitations, why did he bring about this spectacular rupture within the party? Was it revenge on Laliotis, as one party official has said? Or was it an in-party cleanup aimed at gagging dissenters on the Executive Bureau? The bubble of reshuffle was perhaps a sign of ingratitude toward Laliotis but it surely betrays Simitis’s failure to make a radical overhaul of the government – after three years of stagnation.

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