Pulling rabbits out of hats

In politics, being ludicrous is far worse than being unreliable, discredited or unprincipled. The Socialist cadres now parading on television to applaud Costas Simitis’s decision to hand over the reins of PASOK in the runup to the polls and to cheer on the new leader should be aware of that. Given that the «outgoing» chairman has yet to place his cards on the table, these same cadres reassure us that Simitis has «regained the political initiative,» and declare that George Papandreou’s arrival will turn things round. These are the same people who were trying to convince us that opinion polls «reflect nothing but trends» while the electorate still has a clear preference for PASOK; that the most important finding is that Simitis is considered more suitable for premier than his conservative rival; and that the final verdict lies with the electorate. In other words, PASOK’s spin doctors had, until recently, drawn wholly different conclusions over the same political developments, and had invoked totally different arguments that led them to completely different predictions. This blatant paradox is mostly indicative of PASOK’s disarray. One cannot help but wonder how it is possible that PASOK’s most important card has quickly turned into its weakest. One cannot help but question how Simitis has «regained the political initiative» when the only option available (or presented) to him is to commit political suicide. One cannot help but raise an eyebrow at the sudden replacement of an «experienced and successful» premier by a tender shoot who has grown up in the pampered environment of the party and family greenhouse. Breaking with the past and turning public disillusionment into hope requires new faces and fresh ideas. The demand for change can neither be met through Simitis’s Iphigenia-like sacrifice, nor by plucking rabbits out of hats.

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