Image not politics

The discussion about PASOK’s leadership change has yet to touch on the crucial, political question: Does Costas Simitis possess the right image to allow PASOK to nurse hopes of winning the coming elections? Or does the party need a new chairman, a leader with a different image, to be a match for its conservative rival – or, at least, to avoid a landslide defeat? This is the context of the current debate within PASOK. When Socialist cadres raise the prospect of Foreign Minister George Papandreou stepping in for Costas Simitis, they are not suggesting any new policy. They merely favor a new image in the leadership… Similarly, the cadres who oppose appointing Papandreou as party chairman are not raising any political objections. Rather, they believe PASOK would be better off keeping the same image at the head of the party as that would give them a better chance of winning in the polls. Politically speaking, Papandreou and Simitis stand for the same things. Papandreou backed Simitis in the crucial 1996 party vote, he fell behind all of the administration’s reformist policies at home while promoting the premier’s revisionist foreign policy. And note that Papandreou kept silent when Simitis defenestrated former party secretary Costas Laliotis, in breach of the party charter. The two men only differ in terms of public posture. Papandreou is a calm, unprovocative orator, he avoids direct confrontation with «friends» and foes, a man who comes across as a moderate, modern politician.