OPINION

Election campaign tricks

Prime Minister Costas Simitis returned from his vacation feeling optimistic that he can turn around the unfavorable political climate and claim victory in the elections, whenever they occur. For the past two months, he has been systematically setting a trap for voters which he hopes will function effectively for the next four years. The days and works of Simitis in recent months can be summed up thus: * He replaced PASOK general secretary Costas Laliotis with «the reformer» Michalis Chrysochoidis, causing embarrassment and dissatisfaction in the traditional core of the party, which brought him to power. * He proposed a new electoral law and created chaos within his own camp, especially among PASOK deputies. * He attempted to cleanse the political scene by demanding that parliamentary deputies’ stock exchange transactions be looked into, thus setting himself up as a target for former PASOK minister Theodoros Pangalos’s ironic witticisms, and at the same time offending the corps of Greek deputies because a number of his close colleagues had felt the invincible attraction of the Sophocleous St bourse. In short, Simitis has managed to end up alone in a small family circle with powerful economic players who support him and two pillars of reform in his camp, National Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis and Foreign Minister George Papandreou. Having cut himself off from the grassroots of PASOK and having upset his party’s deputies, Simitis is mounting an all-out attack, capitalizing on the fact that September is a month traditionally devoted to the economy. Tomorrow Simitis is expected to show off his social mask, announcing increases in pensions, the salaries of public servants and a social bonus to the poor, hoping this will convince the neediest citizens of his government’s concern. Next will come the premier’s address at the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair, focusing on the supposed achievements and bright prospects of the Greek economy, and on September 11 the charter of Greece’s convergence with the European Union will be announced, since Simitis is above all a European leader. There is no doubt that Greece is sinking into the mire of a long runup to the elections, with Simitis failing to understand that his political affectations cannot counter the weariness the public feels at the very thought of his so-called modernizing team on the political scene. Simitis used the notions of European vision and reform to win two elections but inadequate management by his governments risks making Greeks hate both the European Union and the very idea of reform.