PASOK’s prospects

The hopes by the ruling PASOK party that it could trim opposition New Democracy’s lead in opinion polls by announcing a set of meager handouts and political initiatives in the runup to the elections have been shattered. On the contrary, though time is running out, new public surveys show that the conservative opposition has widened its lead. PASOK’s downslide appears irreversible – or almost at that point. The gradual realization of this grim reality has pushed the reformist core of PASOK’s leadership and government into spasmodic reactions that reflect a mentality which is deeply derogatory toward the people, their needs, as well as their political and cultural level. The decision, for example, to turn the inauguration of the new stretch of the Attiki Odos into a pre-election campaign fiesta, with thousands of Socialist supporters chanting pro-Simitis slogans such as: «You will always be our prime minister,» recalls tactics that might have been advantageous half a century ago but which no longer inspire or may even irk voters. Most importantly, the specter of defeat is having a degenerating effect on PASOK. Dozens of cadres and ministers have parted ways with the party, while Thessaloniki MP Stelios Papathemelis has gone as far as to announce the creation of new political parties. The future strength of PASOK’s splintering may be uncertain but its launch, at this stage, has bruised the Socialists’ image. Recent developments are the consequences of the leadership’s purge of in-party rivals and dissenters, a fact that is undercutting PASOK’s ability to energize its traditional base – a condition for, at least, avoiding a landslide defeat. The applause with which attendants at Sunday’s inauguration welcomed ejected party secretary Costas Laliotis echoed their anxiety and disillusionment with the dire state of the party and their ultimate search for a savior, even at the eleventh hour. The root cause of PASOK’s woes is nothing but its own policies. The prime minister’s notorious ignorance of the real needs, problems and hopes of a great section of the Greek public led him to map out and implement a policy that is rejected by the majority of the citizens – a truth that is reflected in the Socialist’s declining ratings. In democracies, these contradictions are solved by ousting the governing party, unless the rulers succeed in regaining the trust of the ruled – quite a daunting task for the Socialist party.