The unmaking of a myth

A week before the general elections, George Papandreou’s puzzling and flat appearance in his campaign rally in Thessaloniki and his pitiful performance during the – admittedly dull – televised contest last Thursday fully disclosed the human and political failings of PASOK’s new leader. An attempt to pin down the characteristics of the Socialists’ candidate for prime minister and his aides, following two months of his monopolizing the media, shows that they have grown up in a glass house in which they discuss society and social problems, the course of international relations and so on, but that their theoretical edifice collapses on contact with reality. Papandreou’s main flaw is not his lack of rhetorical skills or poor command of the Greek language. It is that he has no concrete theory of life, politics and reality which he can express in a clear and convincing fashion. A few hundred words would suffice so long as Papandreou behaved like a traditional politician without blurring the political landscape in a radical attempt to change the predominant view of society and bend it to fit the world view of his family and close aides. The myth of Papandreou as PASOK’s savior was debunked in less than two months, and if there is one person who takes pleasure in the current situation it is Costas Simitis, the outgoing Socialist prime minister. Various «reformers» thought it an ingenious political move if Simitis moved on to some top European office while Papandreou took the party helm to ensure the country would still be governed by an entangled group of political and economic interests. But now Simitis seems to be out of favor in Europe and walks almost unnoticed across Kolonaki Square, while other candidates’ names catch the headlines. Simitis has experienced the painful rejection of traditional PASOK cadres. However, he sensed the pro-Papandreou current and decided to pass the helm to him knowing that chaos would reign after his departure. In his appearance in Thessaloniki last week, Simitis seemed more combative than his successor. But he is enjoying the fact that his internal party critics have been quashed and the image of his successor tarnished. The question is not who will win this election but whether Papandreou will preside over the disintegration of PASOK as the main opposition leader.

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