Leadership cult

Every party has the right to draw up their candidacy lists as they will and to welcome cadres from a different ideological background. This is not a new phenomenon. We have noted before that Stefanos Manos and Andreas Andrianopoulos both share a distinct political viewpoint. It is this particularity, the ideological and political chasm, which separates them from PASOK, and which shocked Socialist cadres and voters alike. Following the result of last Sunday’s elections, George Papandreou is now the uncontested leader inside his party. However, the problem is not reactions from Socialist officials. These have kept silent, for they have realized that there is no room left for dissent – not before the polls, at least. Their leader may go on about dialogue and the need for participatory democracy, but dialogue and participation by the Socialist ranks are certainly not allowed within the party. All decisions, even on the most crucial issues, are taken by Papandreou and his closest aides. The latter have no specified status within the party nor do they enjoy any political legitimacy. PASOK’s senior officials feel excluded from decision-making centers and have to learn about developments from journalists. These are signs of a blatant and unprecedented leadership cult which is, for the time being at least, disguised by the rhetoric and modest demeanor of PASOK’s newly anointed chairman. This would be of minor significance had it no effect on the political system in general. Radical changes in PASOK have blurred the political landscape. The members and grassroots supporters of PASOK last Sunday gave their new leader unprecedented political legitimacy, but not carte blanche. They gave him a mandate to resurrect and renew their party but not to transform it into something radically different. It would be very interesting if Papandreou had announced his intentions for the party’s so-called state list (a list of candidates who are elected according to the party’s overall number of votes and not based on their own private campaigning) last week, before calling on the members and friends of PASOK to participate in the procedure for his election. However, Papandreou avoided doing so because he obviously feared that this would seriously undercut his support from the party base. To put it bluntly, the new leader is doing away with PASOK’s identity in a politically underhand way. This is a crucial issue. Voting is the foundation of our democratic system. People make up their minds on the basis of a party’s history, its plans and, of course, the ability and credibility of its leader and other officials. In the case of PASOK, appearances are misleading. Papandreou must lay his cards on the table, so that people are fully aware of what they are voting for. No one wants to vote for a party they did not want in the first place.