Meteoric rise

Ignoring the fact that Greece’s political developments have for a long time – most openly over the past 10 days – been revolving around the question whether Foreign Minister George Papandreou will replace Costas Simitis as premier and Socialist chairman would mean turning a blind eye on political reality. Regardless of the outcome of this very interesting turn of affairs, which could drastically reshape the domestic political landscape, we must make some observations regarding Papandreou’s meteoric rise. Simitis’s ascent to PASOK’s top post and the premiership – as well as his victory in two consecutive election battles – was based on the promotion of a concrete political platform and vision. This was encapsulated, in our local political lingo, as «reformism» – irrespective of the extent to which it was carried out. Similarly, the rise of late Socialist Prime Minister and PASOK founder Andreas Papandreou had been based on a policy of «change,» and that of former conservative premier Constantine Mitsotakis on a neoliberal platform. But what are the political premises of Papandreou’s precipitous rise? What is the political demand expressed in a potential leadership switch? Try as one might, it is hard to find even the outlines of a political program, vision or any sort of political commitments. Papandreou is advancing without doing or saying anything, through processes that originate in PASOK’s top echelons, all the way down to the mid- and low-ranking party officials. A stunningly diverse mishmash of PASOK officials, with blatantly divergent or even opposing views, are keen to rally around the foreign minister for the sole purpose of maintaining their grip on the levers of power. This is energizing and mobilizing ruling party officials, whose enthusiasm is spilling over to PASOK’s supporters. However, the resurgent excitement among PASOK’s ranks does not translate into good electoral prospects. Feelings like this are usually short-lived. People want to see an end to PASOK’s rule. Most public surveys show that people disapprove of the bulk of Socialist policies. The issue of Simitis’s replacement by Papandreou concerns the electorate and its choice only to the extent that the incumbent foreign minister intends to implement a different policy, which will in turn be judged by the people. From an ideological and philosophical perspective, the complete absence of a political line may itself be a kind of political stand. But this is the kind of politics that leaves the majority of Greek people indifferent.