A party in crisis

It is an open secret in PASOK that the opposition party has not succeeded in establishing clear policies since its election defeat in March 2004. In the wake of the conservative policies promoted by the party’s so-called reformists, who did away with the brand of socialism established by party founder Andreas Papandreou and promoted the obscure concept of a third-way, Anglo-Saxon-inspired Social Democratic policy, the party subsequently plunged into a political void. George Papandreou, who assumed the party leadership in January 2004, failed not only in giving the party convincing assurances of a political reorientation, but aggravated the situation by forming pre-electoral alliances with two out-and-out neo-liberals – Stefanos Manos and Andreas Andrianopoulos. Some party cadres and supporters failed to grasp the political reasoning behind his unexpected «overture» and confusion has reigned in the party ever since. To date, the «child of change» has not been able to explain what exactly he had in mind and what political outcome he had been hoping for when he brought into Parliament these two tough (even by New Democracy standards) neo-liberal politicians. In any case, the latter two never made any efforts to win the favor of their «allies» in PASOK. Their position was, and remains, very clear. So, if anyone is in a position to explain the reasons behind the alliances of 2004, it is Costas Simitis’s successor alone. Today, the whole Manos-Andrianopoulos affair has become something of a hot potato for PASOK. The reforms being pushed through by Costas Karamanlis’s government – and the unionist reactions they have provoked – have obliged the opposition party to adopt hostile rhetoric against the government. As long as PASOK’s opposition rhetoric is absent of clear policies, and as long as its ostensibly populist speeches lack concrete proposals, the projection of a separate neo-liberal stance for PASOK – at a time when its cadres should be rallying together – only seems to aggravate political confusion within the party. Now, certain supporters of Simitis and members of the so-called «old PASOK» are showing growing impatience with the ties between PASOK and the two former ND politicians. Evidently, the time has come for Papandreou to pay the penalty for his decision. But these developments appear to represent the perfect opportunity for an indirect assault upon the party chief from within its ranks. Papandreou is being closely monitored from within PASOK for his inability to drag his party out of the doldrums and offer effective leadership. Few party officials are oblivious to the presence of challengers to the party leadership who are planning a change of leadership in PASOK at some «critical» point in 2006. As observed by PASOK’s party secretary Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou, the Manos-Andrianopoulos debacle is not the major political issue which the shaken PASOK has to tackle in order to reestablish a sense of order within the party. It is not by chance that the PASOK chief himself has avoided taking a stance on these issues. It is not at all easy for Papandreou to see through his decision to make sweeping changes in PASOK while also ensuring a level of cohesion that would allow the party to handle the weight of a critical election battle when the time comes.

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