OPINION

PASOK pushed to the margin

Three weeks after the national polls, which saw New Democracy win a landslide victory, the new government is gradually unveiling its policies while Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is revealing his intentions and setting his own conditions, thereby transforming the domestic political landscape. The political and ideological hegemony of the once-mighty PASOK is no more, while the social groups that supported the party founded by late Socialist premier Andreas Papandreou have distanced themselves from the Socialist camp disillusioned by PASOK’s ideological mutation and deeply compromised former government. Moreover, people seem to have buried the anti-Rightist reflexes of the past. They are convinced that Karamanlis does not jeopardize their interests. Quite the opposite, in fact. The conservative leader seems to be aware of that and is keeping a low profile in order to assure the public of his intentions. Although Karamanlis is aware of the sorry state of Greece’s public finances, he insists that he will do everything to fulfill his pledges while openly declaring his aversion to exhibitionism and luxurious lifestyles. He emphasizes his aversion to graft and corruption, he shows true interest in citizens’ problems and, unlike his «aloof» predecessor Costas Simitis, he is close to the people. Karamanlis has already made a favorable public impression and enjoys a high approval rating. His immediate plans confirm his intention of inhabiting the middle ground, to steal this privileged section of the political spectrum from PASOK, and to push the Socialists more to the left – to the margins, if possible. The coming period will likely disclose the most problematic aspects of the Socialist government, including judicial revelation of blatant cases of corruption and conflicting interests. The presence of prosecutor Giorgios Zorbas in the Ministry of Defense has jeopardized the network of corruption. It is no coincidence that Karamanlis has looked to the Leftist parties for help in this effort, pointing to Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga and Synaspismos Left Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos as potential interlocutors while PASOK looks for its new identity somewhere between Papandreou’s still-nebulous ideas, Simitis’s reformism and the roots of a bygone, glorious era. PASOK is heading for a new defeat in the European elections. A second, stronger shock could raise doubts about Papandreou, who has failed to meet the expectations of many inside his party. In any case, the post-electoral landscape is even more favorable for Karamanlis than the one shaped by the election outcome.