Own goal

Usually it is the government that scores political own goals. But yesterday it was opposition leader George Papandreou who blundered. He tried something that has become standard parliamentary procedure: calling for a censure vote against a minister. The premier then turned the tables by challenging Parliament to hold a confidence vote. Papandreou’s move backfired, especially after leaks to the press took away his element of surprise. As a result, Costas Karamanlis won more than a vote of confidence. Now the conservatives will find new ammunition against their Socialist predecessors at a time when the administration is opening a not-so-popular reform campaign. People hold PASOK responsible for many current problems. Now they want a productive government. One cannot accuse the government of stirring up the past. All New Democracy did was meet Papandreou’s challenge. If the premier scored a point on Wednesday, that was due to Papandreou’s ill-calculated move. This victory will make things easier for Karamanlis. Papandreou, however, continues to lose ground. Those who claim that the move enabled the PASOK chairman to rally the party’s forces are really ignoring growing doubts about his ability to lead the party. Senior cadres were irked that he avoided consulting them over the move. Grassroots supporters are equally unenthusiastic. A a VPRC survey conducted before Papandreou’s latest debacle found that only 55 percent of PASOK supporters think Papandreou is most suited for premier. PASOK is losing a traditional pool of supporters, the center-left voters, and Papandreou has not reversed this trend. At the same time, the party’s political unity is being put to the test. Pressure will intensify as ND’s reform campaign begets many crucial political dilemmas.

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