At any cost

A few months after Costas Simitis’s easy re-election by the Socialist Party congress, the climate of intra-party dissent seems to be back with a vengeance. The initiative by 45 socialist deputies who came up with a proposal on social security reform was interpreted by the prime minister’s office as a hostile act, whose aim was to question the premier himself and to bring back the politically volatile conditions last summer. Simitis feels that certain unofficial party groupings are trying to entrap him and this explains his fierce reaction. For their part, the dissenters claim that their intention was to help the government and to strengthen the party’s socialist image. There is no question, however, that this was not the real aim of their initiative. Those who signed the social security reform proposal may have been driven by different motives that all stem from discontent with the Cabinet, but the political outcome was definitely at the expense of the prime minister. Simitis’s overreaction, however, bestowed a greater importance on the issue than was warranted. In addition, it allowed other top PASOK officials to play their own games. The remarks by Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos, party General Secretary Costas Laliotis and Interior Minister Costas Skandalides are indicative, as they clearly distanced themselves from the government’s dramatic response. All this could be seen as intra-party skirmishing, if it didn’t have a direct impact on political equilibrium. The ruling party appears unable to overcome its internal contradictions. Instead, it seems to be caught up in them, thus being led into reproducing the familiar phenomena of breakdown. Simitis is trying to regain control of the situation by dramatizing it, as he has repeatedly done in the past. His tactic has so far borne fruit, but only temporarily. It is obvious that the prime minister is finding it increasingly difficult to rally the party around his policies. On the one hand, weariness and satiety and, on the other, divergence between the private strategies of the party barons produce conflict or, at best, a deadlock. Given, however, that the country needs urgent solutions to accumulated problems, both old and new, Simitis has no other choice but to remain loyal to his government’s commitments and to implement the necessary political changes, at any cost. The September 11 attacks showed clearly that a few fanatical individuals have the ability to kill thousands of people at a time and will not shrink from doing so. The military response by the United States has raised questions regarding national sovereignty and international law that will have to be solved. The old model of sovereign states being inviolable and allowed to do whatever they like inside their borders has been eradicated in practice with the US-led NATO campaign against

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