OPINION

‘Provisional’ leader

From the moment that Foreign Minister George Papandreou’s statements on his trip back from Brussels were made public, the question has been whether he had consulted with Prime Minister Costas Simitis before making his remarks. It is hard to believe that Simitis showed such a lack of political judgment by agreeing to transform himself into a provisional leader. Even if we were to assume that he had intended to step down before elections, he had every reason to retain his influence and avoid being politically discredited. As it is, the balance of power in the ruling party underwent a crucial shift after Sunday. Papandreou’s statements were not spontaneous. They were the product of political calculation whose chief aim was to respond to widespread calls from within the party for the subject of succession to be broached before the elections. Papandreou may not have such intentions himself but he has been accused of political timidity. This is why he stressed that he «would not shirk his responsibilities» if he were to succeed Simitis, although he made it clear he would make no moves to unseat the latter. At face value, Papandreou’s remarks do not threaten Simitis, as they acknowledge that the latter retains decision-making power. But in politics, what is significant is what we read between the lines. In this case, Papandreou was aware that his statements effectively questioned Simitis’s standing as leader…