Government change

The Greek public was yesterday stunned to hear the prime minister lay out his novel theory concerning the need for governmental change in democracies. «Is the change of government necessary in a democracy? Of course it is. But what does change (of government) mean?» Costas Simitis asked rhetorically during a press conference with the Foreign Press Association. The premier offered a lengthy answer, whereby he made a striking claim: «(We say) yes to the change of government, however we have shown that we can successfully carry it out ourselves, and this is how we shall proceed, because we want to renew everything, (we want to) reform everything.» In a few words, these days PASOK stands for more than the once-hyped «change.» This time, it actually resembles the change of itself. According to the Socialist leader, a change of government does not mean the replacement of PASOK’s government by another one led by New Democracy, the Communist Party, Synaspismos Left Coalition, or any other alliance of parties. It rather means PASOK’s endless stay in power as long as the party alters its positions from time to time. True, Simitis could not have come up with a more potent argument in order to convince even the most skeptical among the electorate that, despite his claims to the contrary, he is in fact permeated by an establishment mentality. Does Simitis not realize that he has lost all sense of moderation when he accuses New Democracy – a party which has been in the opposition for the past 20 years, save for a brief tenure under Constantine Mitsotakis – of clinging to outdated beliefs, of accommodating old and worn-out figures, in contrast to PASOK’s ostensibly fresh government cadres that have over the last 20 years plunged Greece into corruption? Simitis’s demeanor is probably driven by the understanding that his political career currently stands at its most crucial turning point, and he is facing the prospect of a landslide defeat in the looming parliamentary elections – an outcome that could bruise his overall political presence. Faced with all sorts of pressure, including from within the party, Simitis decided in yesterday’s press conference to create a climate of uncertainty, even over whether he will lead PASOK in the coming poll, on which he avoided stating his intention in a clear-cut fashion. Without excluding the possibility of passing the torch to another PASOK cadre, Simitis is trying keep all his options open while, at the same time, playing for time. He appears to believe that, in the end, the entire party will see him as the only realistic option, thereby reinforcing his role in the post-election handling of a potential defeat.