A new landscape

PASOK’s change of leadership up to now has resembled some sort of jamboree, devoid of any political substance or intra-party confrontations. But it would not be wise to take such affairs too lightly. Politics is no party. It is a powerful clash of political positions which will determine the outcome of forthcoming elections. It should be noted, however, that the political climate has already changed, and this transformation is being recorded in the first polls, however sketchy these may be. So what do these polls show? Firstly, they confirm the conviction asserted by Kathimerini six months ago – that Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s political prospects have been virtually exhausted, sunk in a mire of bad – and sometimes downright scandalous – management of public affairs. This reality has deeply divided PASOK itself and has distanced its members and followers alike. Not only was Simitis not the ace in the pack but, on the contrary, he constituted the weakest link. Secondly, the opinion polls that are available (improvised though they may be) confirm that PASOK’s newly appointed leader, Foreign Minister George Papandreou – whose name and public image we are very familiar with but whose political attitudes we know virtually nothing about – has impressively succeeded in rallying the party cadres, uniting the old wing and the new, and breaking down the mistrust and conflicts which have been dividing them. The extent to which this congruence has any political substance – for example, whether it will overcome an unpleasant, or at least troubled, past – remains to be demonstrated and judged during the period leading up to the elections. The political climate of the pre-election countdown has undergone a significant change. However, the democratic demand of the people for a change in the style and method of governance (a widespread and established phenomenon) – remains strong. Objectively speaking, this demand is turning out to favor opposition New Democracy, which – according to the sketchy results of early polls – is continuing to maintain a significant lead ahead of PASOK. However, it appears that the electoral race will be a tough one and extremely close right until the finish. New Democracy will have to be very cautious and to adapt itself to the new political landscape. Already the party’s leader Costas Karamanlis has changed his style in his last few public speeches, which is a promising start.

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