Socialist cacophony

Socialist Prime Minister Costas Simitis has drifted back to his tactics of trashing the Right in an attempt to convince the electorate that the conservative New Democracy party must not be allowed back into power. Of course, no one has the right to prevent the premier from choosing the rhetorical style that he deems most suitable for fighting his political foes. And Simitis obviously thinks that the time is right for his reformist PASOK to reactivate the dormant policy of conservative-bashing. Faced with sliding popularity in opinion polls, the premier does not have many policy alternatives left. However, while addressing PASOK’s Members of Parliament on Tuesday, Simitis made another awkward display of these tactics. In the past, he triggered a sharp reaction when he referred to the political Right of the 1950s and 1960s in order to show that today, the same old rightist party is fighting a progressive PASOK. On those occasions, the unleashing of anti-conservative vitriol – a policy hugely incompatible with Simitis’s lawyerly image that his spinmasters promoted in the media after 1996 – was abandoned, for it prompted nothing but sarcasm. Now we are seeing it again, and in the runup to the elections. The reformist PM is not just trying to convince the audience that PASOK is not identified with the establishment, but that it is New Democracy which represents the ruling class. Among the arguments put forward by Simitis is that New Democracy’s parliamentarians include politicians who were members of the 1990-93 government, and some even of the 1974 one. What a forceful argument, indeed. It is as if Simitis has not been in the political arena since 1974; as if he has not been a minister for 22 years.