OPINION

Simitis’s leadership

Very early on, Prime Minister Costas Simitis promoted an institutional conception of politics as a factor central to his public image and to the reformist proclamations which brought him to power in 1996. After 1987, he had strongly criticized Andreas Papandreou’s way of exercising power as premier, accusing him of authoritarianism, tolerance of inappropriate behavior by his associates, and sterile anti-rightist rhetoric. The irony is that Simitis, as prime minister, has not hesitated to do everything he accused his predecessor of. In Papandreou’s time political passions were at a height and such behavior resonated with the public. These days society has distanced itself to some extent from political life, so trying to cultivate artificial polarization is both gauche and unethical. It is true that anti-right rhetoric is dictated by electoral campaign debate. Yet the same does not hold true for authoritarian behavior. Here, Simitis has shown that not only is he no exception to the rule, but he has excelled at the game. And he doesn’t even have Papandreou’s excuse of being an ideological and political leader and party founder. In 1996, Simitis was brought to power as the leader of a trend, which forced him to respect the democratic functioning of institutions, which he had always invoked when on the opposition side of his party. Instead, he effectively imposed one-man rule. Simitis has exploited the prime ministerial character of the political system and the fact that PASOK is more a party of officials than a living political organism. He is now trying to plant his own people in the parliamentary group. It is no surprise that he is acting like the leader of a group rather than of all PASOK. In previous years he had marginalized an entire category of cadres and promoted those who declared allegiance to him, sidestepping not only meritocratic criteria but any concept of party equilibrium.