Forgotten limits

The speech that PASOK’s chairman George Papandreou made yesterday to his party’s National Council was an unpleasant surprise for anyone who had retained any illusions about his political style and ethos. Strict, even harsh monitoring of the government’s deeds is a fundamental part of the role of the opposition and of democratic rules. But there is a long way between that and resorting to wildly inflammatory language. The Socialist chief accused the government of just about everything: «a storm of appointments of party followers,» «the economic destruction of our country,» and «irresponsible patriotism.» «Traditionally the Right is identified with arrogance, lack of meritocracy, easy lies, corruption, and lack of respect for the country,» railed Papandreou. In order to defend entangled interests, he did not even hesitate to accuse the government of «being fellow travelers of the communists,» and lambasting the «shift of New Democracy to an unbridled anti-European stance and identification with the traditional positions of the Communist Party.» Stopping at nothing, and failing to keep an embarrassed silence after revelations of serial fraud in concealing the true extent of the budget deficits by the Simitis government, the PASOK leader condemned New Democracy for «doubling the deficit in 2004.» He apparently has forgotten that there are limits. Beyond the normal limits in the sphere of political seriousness, there is the murky area of political insolence in which Papandreou has apparently decided to operate. It’s a bit rich for PASOK to denounce «party appointments» by New Democracy when its own feats in that field led to a new expression, the «green guards,» that described the phenomenon. Papandreou is sorely mistaken if he thinks the Greek people have already forgotten the unbelievable corruption Costas Simitis’s «reformist» regime – which he himself served faithfully as one of its leading pillars – and for which he bears grave responsibility. The public expected something different from Papandreou; that he would change PASOK, first by cutting the thousands of threads that bound it up with special interests and made it an agent of corruption in Greek society. Those hopes were in vain, as his demagoguery has shown. The Socialist party has always had a surplus of insolence and arrogance, but they led to its downfall, not to its revival.

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