Dubious mentality

Rhetorical flourishes are the rule rather than the exception during a campaign period. However, these too must keep within limits; going beyond the bounds corrodes the foundations of democracy. Speaking at a central committee meeting yesterday, the Greek prime minister once again overstepped the mark. His recurrent charges that Greece cannot be governed by the conservative opposition party are permeated by a dangerous establishment mentality. Costas Simitis has every right to believe that his party has a better program or that it is more capable than New Democracy, but presenting the public with a PASOK-or-havoc dilemma is unacceptable. Such statements essentially question the change of administration which is the cornerstone of parliamentary democracy. The Socialists’ slide into a deeply anti-democratic frame of mind is not just reflected in the remarks made by the premier but also in comments by other leading members of PASOK. Party spokeswoman Chryssa Arapoglou went as far as to assert that a renewed call by New Democracy for early elections would be virtually tantamount to politically subversive behavior. Arapoglou stood by what she had said despite warnings that she was in breach of the unwritten code of ethics. Such statements, combined with other government tactics, reveal how stubbornly Simitis and some of his aides are clinging on to power, irritating the public and estranging voters from the ruling party. However, the Socialists’ establishment mentality has other, more serious, repercussions. It is worth noting that Costas Simitis used to attack the late Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou for his alleged populism and sterile right-wing bashing. Yet Simitis seems to have taken a leaf out of his predecessor’s book, as can be seen from his tight grip on the levers of power within PASOK, the absence of democracy within the party, and his toleration of dubious means. Last spring, he even reached the point of saying that he is the victim of a conspiracy by vested interests when it is common knowledge that no prime minister has ever received so much support and for so long by the vast majority of the media and big business interests. Facts demonstrate that as party leader and prime minister Simitis has not hesitated to behave in a manner he once despised. The aggressive campaign of the ruling party, however, will most likely backfire as it is reinforcing the protest vote. The prime minister and his aides are desperately trying to create political facts that could change the course of events. They are seeking the magic wand that will transform the negative climate. But there are no magic recipes, as everyone knows.