Crucial choice

The bleak political climate and the scandalmongering of the past few weeks demand a response not only from the government but also from the Socialist opposition. Many PASOK cadres are gloating over the relentless war that certain media have launched on the government, deeming that this will facilitate their return to power. Some officials have urged the party leadership to throw more oil onto the flames either through media leaks or parliamentary questions. Doing that would also do great damage to George Papandreou. The poor record of the Simitis administration makes corruption a non-starter for Papandreou. Moreover, the existing mood does not just affect the government but mars the image of the political system at large. It is no coincidence that recent polls indicate that PASOK has not capitalized on recent controversy. In fact, the surveys reflect popular disapproval of all mainstream parties. Even if PASOK reaped some short-term gains from the allegations, it would still not want to see the media gaining enough power to manipulate governments and political developments. In other words, Italian-style rule by media will harm PASOK, too. But, most importantly, it would pose a threat to a democratic system which is founded on the premise that governments are elected for a four-year tenure, they implement their program, they are monitored – and never stewarded by the media – and are judged by voters in the elections. Papandreou’s stand as opposition leader will be crucial not just for his party but for political life in general. For the time being, Papandreou has postured ambiguously, wavering between a sterile accusatory rhetoric and the admission that graft and corruption are everyone else’s concern. Monday’s parliamentary discussion will show whether PASOK will remain a passive bystander.