OPINION

Spent force

The situation does not bode well for Prime Minister Costas Simitis after the removal of Costas Laliotis from the post of general secretary, the «apolitical» character of the revamped Executive Bureau and the minor changes to the Cabinet. Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s inconsistent handling of these matters was more a sign of bewilderment before the crisis besetting PASOK and the government. His reactions appeared spasmodic rather than the result of concrete planning. The brave and risky decision to defenestrate Laliotis – a man who more than any other Socialist politician personified the link between the traditional PASOK and its reformist reincarnation – along with the premier’s pompous declarations, seemed to presage a more determined follow-up. When a leader who has found himself in a dire political position dares to defrock a figure who has played a decisive role in his own election as prime minister and party leader (risking, with the same move, paralyzing that section of the party which has always staged PASOK’s electoral battle), he is inevitably cultivating great expectations. Furthermore, the prime minister made the mistake of combining Laliotis’s removal with an Executive Bureau of low prestige – politically speaking – which will not interfere with the government’s activity, when everyone expected major change. A major change in the government, that is, because it is the government alone which is responsible for the poor results, the blatant shortcomings, the mistakes and the overall public disillusionment. However, people felt their intelligence insulted when Simitis made no changes to the government, proving that the whole thing was part of the ongoing war between the rival factions within PASOK. This is a war to determine the manager of the Socialists’ pending electoral defeat. This impression was reinforced by Simitis’s remarks yesterday at the Cabinet meeting, a meeting that even fell short of introducing some minor organizational changes that had been leaked to the press in the past days. Furthermore, some members of the new administration have already expressed complaints as they feel that they were used by the prime minister and that they are already being disparaged. Rather that heralding in a new dynamic start, the recent developments confirm the view that Simitis’s term has run its course.