The weight of public opinion

The post-1974 party model is in crisis. It has degenerated into a bureaucratic apparatus which is unwilling and unable to meet social demands through a cohesive political plan. George Papandreou has, in the past, proposed PASOK’s transformation into an open party based on participatory democracy. Accordingly, he backed the idea of a chairman elected by the party base. In short, he is not driven by opportunism. The fact that the popular vote takes place in a pre-election period serves his objectives. First, because public surveys show that most citizens are favorably disposed toward him, and his election by the party base will be a public relations boon. Also, his reinforced political legitimacy will render him invulnerable inside the party in case of defeat. From an institutional perspective, however, the process is flawed. Would the votes of party members and friends enjoy the same weight had there been two candidates? The notion of party member begs for a new definition. Does Papandreou want the citizen who takes part in internal party procedures to be considered a member? The transition to an «open party» demands broader changes in the party charter. Worse, the new process breeds a leadership cult. PASOK’s new leader will have absolute authority over the party, and all that by popular vote. No party body will be able to counterbalance his powers (Unless the Executive Bureau were to be elected by the convention). The cash value of this is that parties’ democratic role as an intermediary is compromised. This has, in turn, degenerated into a TV-based democracy. The leadership switch was imposed by opinion polls and not by the political balance of power. This is a triumph of the public opinion, but not necessarily a democratic one. We must not forget that political preferences are, to a large extent, shaped by the manipulating media.