Talk about George Papandreou shifting political gears raises the inevitable predicament: the need to promote a policy that does not really exist. PASOK is actually following the policy that the Simitis government implemented for two consecutive terms – and one that Papandreou never questioned. It is also a fact that this is a policy line which all ministers, all senior government cadres, defended as a national necessity up until a few weeks ago. Thus, when Papandreou is called upon to distance himself from the policies of his predecessor, he is effectively committing an act of political deception against the public. It should be noted that Papandreou has given his unreserved backing for all PASOK policies since 1996, when Simitis came to power. Furthermore, PASOK’s chairman-in-waiting replaced Simitis at the helm of the Socialists notwithstanding the fact that the main axes of this year’s economic and social policy were already set – the annual budget and the 2004-2008 policy framework which was outlined by Simitis. Whatever Papandreou may announce during the campaign period as a new policy or «correction,» aiming to provide relief for those suffering most from Simitis’s policies, it will carry no substantial political weight. The new Socialist leader is bound to shoulder the full burden of the policies that he had warmly embraced up until a few days ago. Simitis actually made sure this would occur by the measures he took before announcing his decision to step aside and by what he said after he did so. In his campaign, Papandreou cannot disavow his full endorsement of his predecessor’s administrative model and the handling of state affairs by the so-called reformist bloc of which he has been a prominent member. The changes that Papandreou can carry out inside PASOK after the elections are, of course, a different story.

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