What was in effect a farewell speech yesterday by Prime Minister Costas Simitis was characterized by an attempt to rhapsodize about his government’s achievements. In a personal and boastful manner, Simitis presented a pretty picture of reality. Anyone taking his words at face value would be at a loss to understand why Simitis was leaving the PASOK leadership as one leading his party to certain defeat, why he was being replaced at the last minute by George Papandreou, in a last-ditch and exceedingly doubtful attempt to overturn predictions of PASOK’s doom in the next elections. Unfortunately for Simitis, his political fate has been determined not by what he has done but what he has not done in this second term, when Greeks gave him a mandate, albeit a marginal one, to govern the country. Despite his claims to the contrary, the departing prime minister has not taken steps to pave the way for Greece’s real convergence with its European Union partners. His policies, devoid of courage, kept the country lagging behind in nearly all the important indices despite hefty EU funding that flowed in during his term. In addition, Simitis has failed to deal with problems in public finances or face the challenge of structural changes. In fact, he has only exacerbated them in ways that will be extremely harmful for the country’s future. Even worse, Simitis not only did nothing to fight corruption, which has undermined the democratic foundations of our society, but embraced the network of interests which contributed to his re-election in 2000. The country has had to pay a high price for that transaction. Our political system has fallen into the clutches of the barons of vested interests. The latter have already embarked on a gigantic operation to become part of the succession process initiated by Simitis, having first ensured that all their support centers within the PASOK party and state mechanism remained intact. The departing prime minister has been decisive in helping them maintain control of the ruling party and State in the way he has organized his succession. In view of the threat of defeat, Simitis has cooperated with these circles in a campaign to deceive the public and to impose, de facto, from above, a decision regarding his successor. The media representing those interests present Papandreou as the «people’s choice,» but they were naturally never asked and have never expressed an opinion. Setting parliamentary elections for March 7 places the onus on the people, who will have to choose whether or not to vindicate those who arbitrarily present themselves as alleged representatives of their political intentions.