A tough showdown

PASOK’s new leader will have to face another challenge apart from the anticipated ones in the countdown to the March elections – such as televised debates, especially with opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis. Indeed, having focused exclusively on foreign affairs and attempted, for so many years, to avoid involvement in problems with a heavy political cost (such as the economy, education, health, employment, and public administration), George Papandreou will invariably find himself at a disadvantage – both in terms of producing convincing political rhetoric and of familiarity with a host of problems and correspondingly viable solutions – compared to his political rival, who has had seven years of practice in these areas and is thus better prepared for a contest where they play a crucial role. Apart from this, Papandreou’s «public image» – the casual, spontaneous, tracksuit-wearing figure who ostensibly appeals to the younger voters – will most probably have negative political consequences. When the showdown was between Costas Simitis and Costas Karamanlis, the former always won in the credibility stakes (due, no doubt, to his greater age and long stint at the head of the government). But now that the contest is between «George» and «Costas,» it is the latter who emerges as possessing the most complete insight into the problems and needs of everyday citizens – and his first few appearances after the launch of Papandreou’s campaign confirm this.

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