OPINION

Renewing the Socialist party

Socialist opposition leader George Papandreou dropped a political bombshell Tuesday. «I must bring to the forefront a new generation of politicians. I have 40 new deputies in my parliamentary group and if after the next elections (the number increased to) 80 or 100, I would be very pleased. It is them I will use for my government,» PASOK’s leader stressed. Papandreou’s words were the latest confirmation of his ambition to carry out a radical renewal of his party’s leadership. Such move would mean the en-masse retirement of the all-too familiar and largely corrupt PASOK old guard. Papandreou’s comments inevitably caught the attention of the battered old guard and their would-be successors inside the opposition party as well as voters. That only makes sense to the extent that the Socialist leader’s declaration reflects a genuine intention to renew his party. And that should come as part of a broader political plan to redo a faction savaged by corruption and arrogant governance for over two decades, and not merely as a self-interested act of revenge against in-party foes, most crucially personified in the reformist faction once spearheaded by former prime minister Costas Simitis. Greece’s two mainstream parties will never perish from an overload of ideological boldness or progressivism. So they should at least inject fresh blood in the hope of creating the conditions for a political regeneration in the future. Past experience shows that big parties find it easier to revamp when they are in the opposition as being in power means many compromises. The often uneasy coexistence of the different trends and figures may be necessary to ensure a party’s grip on power. But at the same time it enfeebles any will for renewal. Governments detest the political cost resulting from the inevitable clashes that follow the retirement of old party cadres. So the time is right for PASOK’s renewal. The helm of the country is still way out of PASOK’s reach so there is no point making any compromises in its name. If Papandreou carries through with his plans he would serve his own political objectives while helping Greek society as well. Hope for social progress lies with a radical renewal of the parties’ ideas and key figures.