OPINION

Deconstructing Simitis

Recent developments within PASOK call for the prime minister’s political quiddity. There is no other way of finding out whether Costas Simitis is an asset or bete noire to PASOK, and whether he should lead the party in the looming electoral battle as a victorious general or step down as a spent force. His stamp will be based on a number of contradictory, if not tragicomic, characteristics and the testimonies of senior government cadres and the premier himself. Simitis won two successive election victories that were widely credited to his personality and strategy. However, over the last couple of years, New Democracy has widened its lead over PASOK. To his credit, Simitis is still regarded as more suitable for premier (even with a paper-thin margin) than Costas Karamanlis, who is considered to be inexperienced and untested. Yet the majority of Socialist cadres would prefer George Papandreou, who is himself inexperienced and untested, in the top post. Simitis has in his favor the fact that no premier and party leader has ever resigned without being first defeated in the polls but, again, his party appears to be pressuring him to become the first premier to do so based on opinion poll findings. Finally, Simitis may have won two consecutive polls as a modern-minded, moderate and credible leader, but over the last couple of years he has started to turn things around by coming across as a fanatical, intransigent and unmistakable party leader. Weighing up these characteristics in an attempt to decipher Simitis’s standing is no easy task. His own response would be helpful: with either a confession – that he is tired, sick of it all and wants to go – or with accusations – that some within the party are making decisions about his fate behind his back.