Enigmatic Simitis

Political commentators have put much effort lately into deciphering Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s nebulous remarks over whether he will head the PASOK party in the coming elections. For reasons that only he is aware of, the premier refrained from making an unambiguous remark along the lines of: «I will lead PASOK in the elections.» Simitis, rather, chose to state, «I took part, I am taking part and will take part,» and, «I will direct all my efforts toward a PASOK victory,» a statement that, above all, threw his own ranks into uncertainty. Regardless of Simitis’s motives, the rumors concerning his intention to step down are not the fault of the conservative press, as he and his aides have been insinuating. People in the know are aware that a change in PASOK’s leadership in the runup to the election is, above all, an issue for the ruling party. Besides, it is an open secret that New Democracy does not want any changes that would upset the current correlation of forces and it would be satisfied to see PASOK go to the polls under Simitis. The problem for Simitis is that in the public eye he has long ceased to be PASOK’s most important card. For some, Simitis is bringing PASOK down and is the figure with whom people are most displeased – unfair as this may sound. These are the bitter facts about Simitis, facts that he does perceive but fails to account for. This is the root cause of the problem, of his own bitterness and of his enigmatic remarks that feed the predicted scenarios over his political future. Speculation will grow as new opinion polls are expected to recreate the situation of last May when PASOK’s popularity plunged to an all-time low, prompting the first wave of dissent. This is the grim reality for Simitis. Facing it is bound to intensify debate and energize the instinct of self-preservation inside the PASOK party.