PASOK in confusion
The landmark agreement between the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) and labor unions on the terms of future hirings, along with the prospect of further structural reforms, has thrown the Socialist opposition party into disarray. The PASOK chairman, party bigwigs, deputies and unionists sound like an orchestra woefully out of tune. Party head George Papandreou attacks the government while simultaneously sending the conservatives signals that he wants consensus. The opposition leader does not wish to be tagged a (neo-)liberal, but he is also making sure to distance himself from the statist model, stressing the need for structural changes that will reverse counterproductive «taboos and preconceptions.» Some leading PASOK figures have questioned aspects of the OTE deal, others have defended employees’ rights but keep quiet on the government’s plans, and hardliners of PASOK-affiliated unions lash out against their fellow unionists who signed the pact. There is little doubt that PASOK has no unified political strategy over reforms. Although Papandreou appears willing to back the government’s reform drive, his seeming neo-liberal inclinations enjoy little support even within his own party. The current confusion inside the Socialist party and the bickering among unionists and political officials were to be expected. The vague liberal-socialist rhetoric of former prime minister Costas Simitis had already complicated things. Papandreou then added to the ideological confusion by importing an incomprehensible mix of leftist and neo-liberal elements. In fact, the real surprise would be if PASOK were not split by the structural reforms currently being pushed by New Democracy’s liberal conservatives – which have provoked some resistance from a section of ND’s own grassroots.