Deconstructing the myth

The biggest casualty of this drawn-out campaign period will likely be the personal myth that Prime Minister Costas Simitis has painstakingly built over the years. His political personality has been influenced by Western European and, specifically, German social democracy – a fact that did not keep him from surviving under the shadow of the late Andreas Papandreou for more than 20 years. Simitis’s relationship to his party has been schizoid from the very beginning. On the one hand, he has long felt alone and oppressed. On the other, he has worked next to people whom he actually looked down upon and with whom he never established social ties. Ironically, it was these people who acted as his security umbrella: Giorgos Yennimatas, Costas Laliotis and Akis Tsochadzopoulos repeatedly urged PASOK’s founder against imposing disciplinary measures upon Simitis, a frequent dissident. In the late 1970s, Simitis embarked on a timid shift but only began to build his reformist profile after 1985. After his resignation in 1987, he condemned Papandreou’s hegemonic ways, PASOK’s lack of internal democracy and its leader’s tolerance of his aides’ unwarranted behavior. He also accused him of populism and right-bashing. During the 1989 crisis, Simitis even scoffed at Papandreou’s allegations that he was the victim of a conspiracy. It is no coincidence that the economic and media barons who spearheaded the drive to purge the political system of corruption went on to become Simitis’s warmest enthusiasts. Ironically, as a leader Simitis is doing exactly what he disliked in his predecessor. Notwithstanding the achievements of his premiership, his populist, right-bashing and hegemonic ways have reached new heights. When under fire, he doesn’t hesitate to allege he is the victim of a conspiracy. Simitis’s taste for power has led him to deconstruct his own myth.

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