OPINION

At last, frivolity

During the heat wave this past week, Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s government «reshuffle» came as a breath of frivolous fresh air, simply because it never actually happened. The prime minister’s reformist passions were restricted to removing Costas Laliotis from the post of PASOK general secretary. Naturally, Simitis disappointed all those who consider him an inspired premier and able politician, or the only «positive» element in PASOK. Yet these people’s views are at best an expression of political naivete. The «reshuffle» showed that either Simitis is completely satisfied with his policies and the ministers implementing them, or that PASOK’s parliamentary group has no reserves. Given the sad state of the economy, corruption and entangled interests, and because a major party such as PASOK cannot consist purely of incompetents, the «reshuffle» showed that Simitis has completed his cycle and is a burden on, or even a danger to, the country. Simitis suffers from the pioneer’s syndrome, that of the politician who thinks he is in tune with international developments and who imagines that society has radically changed – that its interests are purely material. But even in this Simitis has failed, as his political choices have not led to prosperity but, for a great percentage of Greeks, to the brink of poverty. Yet Simitis is not the only politician struggling under such miserable self-deception. The only interesting element in the «incentives» he has taken to breathe new life into his party and government is that he has transferred the crisis plaguing PASOK to the present, instead of postponing it until after the elections. Laliotis, who will survive as long as PASOK’s considerable traditional core, is not a victim of Simitis’s policy, but George Papandreou and Michalis Chrysochoidis are. Chrysochoidis emerged into the limelight solely because, due to a lucky break, he managed to root out the November 17 terrorist organization. Papandreou, however, had a good chance of successfully seeking the party leadership, but in identifying with Simitis, he will share in his fate, if, as seems likely, the latter is defeated in the next elections. Simitis has tried to completely usurp PASOK too late and too clumsily, since many of his close associates’ credibility has been shaken over the past two months. In effect, he has given the traditional PASOK eight months to prepare the ground for a new leader of the Greek center-left which will not be so «reformist.» Simitis and his coterie will be a parenthesis, mainly because of the politically inexperienced way they have acted in order to prevail over PASOK’s social masses, which they essentially abhor.