Three questions

Our democracy is not threatened by George Papandreou’s anointment as PASOK chairman in a referendum-style election in which he was the sole candidate. Papandreou has no hegemonic aspirations. He has never shown signs of rebellious boldness or dynamism, nor is he rhetorically gifted to fire up the crowds. He is a likable, moderate and well-intentioned young politician who is keen to avoid confrontation. Since his election to Parliament in 1981, Papandreou has shown that he would rather agree than disagree, obey than rule, follow than lead. It is these very characteristics that raise concern. For there is a blatant inconsistency between his political attributes and the role that he has undertaken, or been assigned. PASOK’s new leader pledges groundbreaking measures targeting PASOK’s policies, the status quo inside the party, conflicting interests and corruption. Such changes are no doubt urgently needed, and people want to see them carried out. It should be noted, on the other hand, that Sunday’s election procedure abolished PASOK’s internal organization (convention, central committee, executive bureau, Cabinet). This means that Papandreou will be unaccountable, at least until the national vote. As a result, three questions emerge. First, who will Papandreou’s allies be in implementing the radical changes, particularly inside PASOK? Second, what will his political and party backing consist of? Third, and most crucially, who came up with the image of the crusading reformist – a role he is vainly struggling to fulfill? Although many people hold PASOK bodies responsible for the ills inflicted during the Simitis government, these bodies are familiar, institutional and accountable. It would be very worrying to find that they have been replaced by unknown, relentless and unchecked decision-making centers.