Papandreou changes course

Following a long period of political isolation during which George Papandreou was out of sync with the public will and the other political parties on the issue of corruption, the Socialist leader has finally decided to adjust PASOK’s policy line. Papandreou’s decision to set up a party committee with the task of hammering out a detailed eight-point plan against graft (a blueprint that was first heralded when the debate on the state tender law began in Parliament some months ago) is no doubt a move that should be welcomed on all sides. The makeup of PASOK’s special committee underscores Papandreou’s intention to make a true and effective contribution to the ongoing national campaign against so-called political and business entanglement and to promote transparency. It is no coincidence that the Socialist leader left off the new committee virtually all of his party’s well-known figures (including both high- and low-ranking officials) whom the public tends to identify with business interests – both during PASOK’s nearly uninterrupted 20-year stretch in power as well as today. Without doubt, the establishment of the committee is a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, the opposition leader should be aware that it will be very difficult to overcome any skepticism sparked by his latest change of course and to prove that his decision to fall into line with the conservative government’s war on graft and corruption is sincere. Besides, Papandreou’s wavering over the issue during the past few months must have convinced him that the backing of business interests does more to strangle politicians’ freedom of action than to further their objectives. For its part, the New Democracy government of Costas Karamanlis should be pleased with PASOK’s latest initiative, and it should exploit the chance of joining hands with the Socialist opposition on this crucial issue. Success in fighting political and business entanglement is of vital importance for ensuring the smooth functioning of the country’s democracy and economy.