Rebels without a cause

The shock waves that have jolted the ruling party after a number of Socialist deputies announced that they will part ways with PASOK are to be observed in other countries as well. The French Socialists are having an identity crisis following their landslide defeat in the last elections. In Italy, the center-left party has laid all its hopes on Romano Prodi’s return from Brussels. Britain’s Tony Blair is faced with prolonged in-party dissent, while Gerhard Schroeder in Germany emerged weaker from his party conference in Bochum. «Our people don’t feel they can go out and stand up for the party anymore,» lamented Sigmar Gabriel, head of the SPD in the state of Lower Saxony. Unlike that of other Socialist parties, however, PASOK’s crisis is hard to pin down. What reformist thread could possibly connect the appointment of Michalis Chrysochoidis as general secretary with the return of Theodoros Pangalos – Menios Koutsogiorgas’s latest reincarnation – as campaign chief? Inner-party dissent does not make that much sense either. There has been much murmur and cries of late, calling George Papandreou to intervene as a deux ex machina and rescue PASOK. Changing horse in midstream can be a risky task, of course, but the main question is whether the foreign minister has ever gone against mainstream government policies to be regarded an alternative option – let alone an obvious one. Regardless of any objections over his political demeanor, Costas Laliotis at least took a much riskier stance during a very crucial period, that is, the Iraq war. Simitis was elected party leader not because of his reformist credentials but because he managed to convince the party that he had more chances of winning the elections. But this proved to be a double-edged sword: His successor must outdo him in representing the only vision that can hold PASOK together – power for the sake of power.