Expectations, second thoughts

The reverberations of George Papandreou’s invasion of the political arena is visible to the naked eye. New Democracy is right to talk of a «communication storm,» but this is only half the truth. For there is also a political aspect to the story. The leadership switch meets two basic PASOK needs. One is to avert what appeared to be a landslide defeat and to achieve the best possible election result. And the other is to reunite and rejuvenate the party. It is far from certain that Papandreou will fulfill all these expectations. However, they have been enough to rally PASOK’s fighting forces and boost the party morale. And they have affected the correlation of forces. ND’s lead has shrunk and opinion polls are expected to project a 3 percent margin. ND still has better chances of winning the vote, but the outcome remains uncertain. Papandreou’s family name and popularity, particularly among the young, have already helped trim ND’s edge. But the vote will be largely decided by whether he will manage to woo back the majority of center-left and middle-ground voters who have been disaffected by PASOK’s recent policies. Papandreou will have to convince this pool of voters that his election marks a break with and not a continuation of the previous government, without this implying a return to the «old PASOK.» His abstract self-criticism was a start but not enough. The «communication storm» will continue, but with diminishing effectiveness as the remaining margin becomes harder to trim. Even those initially tempted to rally round Papandreou are now having second thoughts, as they expect more concrete action. This may allow ND to increase its lead. The outcome will be determined by PASOK’s success in attracting disillusioned voters, by ND’s initiatives and, above all, by Papandreou’s persuasiveness in his final attack that unfolds at the coming convention.

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