Incoherent PASOK

The conservative government’s lack of coordination and the frequent spats between ministers could probably be cured by a reshuffle. Divisions within the opposition Socialist party on crucial issues of doctrine and ideology are, however, far more puzzling. The New Democracy party’s stand on the government’s reform campaign (whose platform includes the abolition of civil servants’ permanent job status and social security reform) has been coherent and unified. PASOK, on the other hand, appears severely split on the issue. The Socialists are in a state of ideological disarray, which has prevented them from proposing any attractive and focused alternative. It is one thing to be a big and diverse political grouping; but being in such an ideological mess is quite another. In the first case, at least, different factions could be constructively blended together under a vigorous and comprehensive program. The questionnaire that PASOK put to its 225,000 members in the latest party elections exposed the true dimensions of the problem. The document addressed a set of core political issues (such as governance of state corporations and public utilities and the role of the state), expressing them in the form of yes/no/sort of/no opinion questions. Members were asked to choose between neo-liberal and old-style socialist policies (which are largely to blame for the current crisis). For one of the few times in political history, a party has declined to shape its own ideological identity, leaving that up to its voters. It is, of course, tempting to reject the neo-liberal/socialist dichotomy. A party member might also avoid ticking the «probably disagree» box so as not to add to the party’s existing confusion. That would leave him with one remaining option: «I don’t know.» Just like the party leadership.