One-man rule

George Papandreou’s decisions have thrown his Socialists into disarray and risk fomenting major upheaval within the party. The opposition leader clearly cares more about bringing PASOK under the thumb of a small group of his trusted allies than in building a new vehicle that productively synthesizes different trends and ideas. Papandreou’s recent public posturing has strengthened the impression among leading Socialists that his primary goal is to strengthen his grip on the party rather than win the next elections. Most cadres remain deeply skeptical of their leader’s ability to hammer out a full-fledged political plan for the near future. They are concerned that their party’s leadership, faced with growing disillusionment in the ranks, will raise a protective shield that is just high enough to allow it to stumble along to the next election. And should too many clouds gather, Papandreou will resort to polarizing moves, such as the recent censure motion in Parliament, that allow him to rally his fighting forces. Some opposition figures think otherwise. They believe that if Papandreou continues with his inward-looking policy, which prevents PASOK from establishing an ideological identity, then the party could be in for a big rupture – though it is hard to say exactly when. Independent of what different party figures predict for PASOK’s future, Papandreou is no doubt a unique case. In charge of a mainstream political party that is having trouble taking a clear stand on Greece’s many acute problems, the Socialist chairman, who just last year rose to near-messiah status, is troubling observers with his continuing vagueness on policy and structural reform. It will be interesting to see what course Papandreou will take from now on.

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