Symbolic gesture

Yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle, flat though it was, cannot go by unnoticed. PASOK is a big party; it has determined Greece’s fortunes over two decades, and any such developments within the party are bound to have an impact on people’s lives – especially when these are not just cosmetic but touch the party’s historical core. The removal of Costas Laliotis was a radical and highly symbolic move. His replacement by Michalis Chrysochoidis gives a greater dimension to the attempted reform, as he has suggested in the past a change of PASOK’s name and emblem. All these changes form part of a plan which has only started to unfold and which should entail more changes as significant as Laliotis’s removal. Even if the changes to the Cabinet fall far short of expectations, it is the political directorate that will be established that will set the tone of renewal. The main thrust of Costas Simitis’s changes was the ejection of Laliotis and everything he stands for. The premier wished to signify PASOK’s move closer to the political center, closer to a liberal platform and to current international trends. Furthermore, he is trying to free the Socialist party from its complexes of the past, and to turn it into a Western-style party that is closer to Europe but with an eye still fixed on America. The shift has a double aim: to purge PASOK of reactionary elements and to attack New Democracy by winning back the center, middle-class voters who have moved closer to Costas Karamanlis. The much-hyped shake-up proved to be a bubble, but no one can turn a blind eye to the main political move, the replacement of Laliotis. One cannot be sure what this will offer to the ruling Socialists; perhaps nothing, or even prove detrimental. Nevertheless, it was a serious political decision that will affect political developments, now or long-term. And this cannot pass unnoticed.

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