OPINION

PASOK’s long reign

The recent opinion polls have put PASOK in a very difficult position. Six months ahead of the national polls, New Democracy is consolidating a wide lead of nearly 8 percent. The conservative lead is apparently being cemented by many factors related to voters’ perception of the Socialist party and the anxiety of their own everyday lives. However, the main reason for its poor situation appears to be the party’s long stay in power. A big segment of the population favors a political changeover. PASOK, they say, has been in charge for too long, thus obstructing change and fresh ideas. Faces have been virtually unchanged for 20 years while a new Socialist victory will undermine the democratic mandate of parties alternating in power. Even Socialist voters have such thoughts. Everyone believes that PASOK has over the years acquired an establishment mentality, its party structure becoming identified with the State. The ruling party has for some time tried to shake off this image. The recent changes inside the party and the reforms initiated by Prime Minister Costas Simitis are a clear sign, although they were also meant to serve other politically expedient objectives. It is no coincidence that many people inside PASOK believe that Simitis’s moves came too late, and that the process should have started the day after the 2000 elections. But the exuberance following that victory made them blind to the need for change. In any case, the load on the shoulders of the Socialists is almost unbearable. They have done virtually nothing in the past few years. Their every move, their policies, even the very lifestyle of PASOK’s cadres underscores what citizens label as an establishment mentality. Unfortunately for PASOK, it is too late to change its image. Its actions in the runup to the elections will most likely reinforce it. The rest of the story will unfold on screen, or more likely, at the ballot box.