Papandreou’s responsibilities

PASOK leader George Papandreou once again faced a dilemma over the direction that his party’s criticism of the government should take, despite the fact that tension was for the most part absent during the parliamentary debate yesterday. There is little doubt that the opposition leader largely condones the government’s campaign toward structural reforms. After all, the success of the conservatives’ reform drive would also make it easier for him to govern the country should he ride to power at some point in the future. In that sense, Papandreou has little, if any, room to maneuver. The Socialist chairman can do nothing but accept the changes promoted by the conservative administration, despite the fact that his support is bound to carry some political cost, coming either from in-party rivals or union leaders who have cultivated strong ties with the Socialist party. That said, if the reform campaign is to come to a successful end, Papandreou must shoulder some share of the responsibilities too. Simply avoiding resistance to change is not enough. After all, the conservative prime minister does not view Papandreou as an enemy on this one. The Socialist leader must try to rein in his cadres and the PASOK-affiliated unionists who are systematically trying to pour oil on the flames. Otherwise, regardless of his intentions or any ulterior motives, the polarizing rhetoric will undermine the implementation of structural changes. That is the least Papandreou can do if he really wishes to absolve himself of any personal responsibilities for the disastrous inaction under eight years of Socialist administration. Former prime minister Costas Simitis lacked the courage to carry through the reforms mandated by the economic policy that he pledged. And Papandreou is not without responsibilities. It would be unacceptable if the PASOK leader’s failure to control his party eventually put the brakes on the conservatives’ effort to promote the structural changes that the Socialist governments, of which Papandreou was a member, ought to have brought about.

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