OPINION

PASOK’s slide

The electoral campaign for the Sunday election is ending under very different omens from those with which it started. In the beginning, everyone welcomed the fact that the main front runners, PASOK’s George Papandreou and New Democracy’s Costas Karamanlis, were both young and civilized, with foreign educational and cultural backgrounds, and were champions of a moderate and dignified political campaign. Most people expected that balloting day would come without the typical Balkan acrimonies, tension and polarization. In place of that, they hoped to see a civilized confrontation on the basis of the parties’ political proposed policies and ideas. Unfortunately, none of this happened. Following his failure to trim the opposition New Democracy party’s lead in opinion polls and his inability to articulate a cogent and attractive plan, Papandreou changed his tune. Papandreou’s slide started from his first moments as PASOK chairman, when he was confronted with the so-called Pachtas case, the controversial land development amendment tabled by the now-ejected deputy finance minister. Papandreou reacted in an authoritarian manner, instantly firing the 10 deputies who signed the bill. Then, he effectively neutralized the party convention, favoring a procedure for his election as party chairman which was a far cry from his pledges of participatory democracy. Costas Simitis’s successor displayed the same lack of democratic sensitivity in dealing with objections that his election by PASOK members and friends violated legislation on personal data protection. Shortly afterward, he showed disrespect toward his party’s grassroots supporters, putting two of Greece’s leading neoliberals and the leftist accusers of his father, the late prime minister and PASOK founder Andreas Papandreou, on prime electoral lists. Seeing that this move did not pay off either, Papandreou resurrected party symbols and old-fashioned Socialist party tactics, sought refuge in outdated right-bashing and, in a last-ditch effort, distorted the program of the opposition with the aim of misleading and unsettling the electorate. He went so far as to spy on opposition officials in order to back his vague propaganda against New Democracy. Papandreou’s slide, decline, or better yet, plunge, from moderation to vile methods has been steady and constant. Resorting to anti-democratic tactics and machinations, PASOK is trying to sway the disaffected citizens who voted for the Socialists back in 2000. It is an act of despair which will though leave black marks on the body politic.