A political parenthesis

The odd thing about Costas Simitis as prime minister is that in the course of exercising power he has managed to negate his advantages and is now moving full steam ahead toward chaos. Simitis kept the lid on PASOK’s trade unionists and thus was able to ensure peace on the labor front while pursuing a supposedly strict policy of convergence with the hard core of the European Union, but which eventually led to a steep reduction in workers’ incomes. However, for some months now, Greece has been rocked by strikes, and last Wednesday the reformist PASOK Executive Bureau denounced the leadership of the public servants’ union, ADEDY – which adheres politically to the «progressive» party – for supporting the strikers. It was a dramatic confirmation of the loss of control and alienation from the core of the party which Simitis officially leads. For some years Simitis claimed he would modernize the Greek economy by privatizing state corporations. Eventually Deputy Economy Minister Apostolos Fotiadis admitted in Parliament that privatization was a means of covering the deficit and funding the national folly of the Olympic Games. In short, it is a crass sellout of state property. Meanwhile, the imaginative National Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, who pushed for a merger between the National Bank of Greece and Alpha Bank (and fortunately failed), is now in a hurry to privatize the Postal Savings Bank. But as the latter is a robust organization that no private owner can afford to buy, Christodoulakis intends to strip some assets – specifically, state bonds in which the bank has invested – to make it more attractive to private investors. Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his close colleagues within the PASOK party have managed to transform the much-needed idea of modernization into a term depised among the general population which is now seen as synonymous with corruption, entanglement of political and business interests and the squandering of public wealth. The strange thing about the prime minister and his modernizing Socialist colleagues is that they had been so convinced of their success that they dared to make a radical break with the traditional grassroots members of the PASOK party, which had been responsible for promoting them and keeping them in power. As a result, and absolutely alone, the prime minister and his colleagues are moving toward a situation of defeat; and nobody will mourn their certain defeat, because in essence they have been nothing more than an unrealistic, tasteless political parenthesis.