Laliotis’s comeback

The heated debate in Athens and Nicosia ahead of the April 24 referenda has naturally overshadowed Costas Laliotis’s resounding rejection of the UN reunification plan – a view which has been adopted by many a cadre inside his PASOK party. Opposition to Socialist leader George Papandreou’s endorsement of the proposed solution, a month after the general elections, marked the comeback of the «patriotic» and «popular» current inside the Socialist party that was starved out during the Simitis government. Laliotis, the former general secretary who has made sure that he kept a foot inside PASOK’s structure, is now spearheading the internal party opposition, challenging the ideological tag imposed by his leader. The political isolation of the patriotic and popular trend appeared complete after Simitis’s two consecutive electoral wins in 1996 and 2000. Victories always vindicate the strategy of the winner. Defeat, on the other hand, prompts an exploration of the causes behind the political failure. In most cases, they trigger a change of leadership and a revision of policies. Laliotis is clearly rejecting the fundamental foreign policy decisions of the Simitis government that were rubber-stamped by Papandreou (such as Simitis’s «thank you» to the US administration after the Imia crisis, the handling of the fiasco over Kurd rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, the Greek stand during the Serb and Iraq wars, Greece’s role in the Cyprus negotiations, and the submissive «yes» to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan). Laliotis will probably make sure to express the social side of PASOK, questioning Papandreou’s basic directions on economic policy. Laliotis’s call for a «no» vote on reunification may have been one opinion among many on the Cyprus issue, but as far as PASOK is concerned, it was a powerful bolt with unpredictable consequences.

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