Strange alliances

The public has watched in wonder the past few days while as many as four different versions of PASOK have emerged under the media glare. As the government soldiers on with structural reforms, the opposition Socialists are split sharply between «liberals» and protectors of social welfare. It is unfair to accuse George Papandreou of standing paralyzed as his party gets Balkanized into a tapestry of rival fiefdoms. At the recent PASOK convention, the Socialist chairman actually condemned statism. Papandreou was also joined by leftist-turned-liberal aides who seem to verify the aphorism that World War III will pit leftists against former leftists. The radical views of party chairman Michalis Chrysochoidis merely signal a pre-scripted shift. Similar tensions have infected the governing New Democracy, and at least since former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis’s time. In fact, right across Europe the differences between center-left and center-right parties pale next to the severe divisions plaguing the parties themselves. In the aftermath of the French «non» to the European Constitution, the French Socialists look like two separate parties under one banner. And France’s Gaullist President Jacques Chirac, who recently said «ultra-liberalism is as great a menace as was communism in its day,» stands closer to the Socialists than he does to Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, an advocate of the Anglo-Saxon model. The rift inside many major parties cannot be blamed solely on the lack of forceful leaders. Rather, it is the inevitable outgrowth of so-called centrist policies that paved the way to the «liberal consensus,» alienating elites from the masses. The seismic shifts caused by the constitutional debacle in Europe are bringing serious public issues back to center stage. Hopefully, it marks the end of a time when society has been eclipsed by the economy and politics by public relations.

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