Papandreou’s challenge

Paradoxical as it may sound, PASOK’s poor ratings in recent opinion polls should strengthen George Papandreou’s hand inside the Socialist party, not weaken it. The reason is easy to see: In order to return to power, PASOK must do all it can to lure back the voters who abandoned it at the last elections in March 2004. It was not the conservatives’ pre-electoral pledges that attracted these disaffected voters to New Democracy. Had that been the case, voters would have left the ruling party too by now, since it has failed to implement many of its commitments. In other words, the shift was mainly prompted by the voters’ strong disillusionment during PASOK’s last years in power. These conclusions are backed by a recent GPO survey, which found that more than two thirds (68 percent) think the opposition is doing a bad job. Notably, 61 percent said the same of the government. The electorate, especially those who defected from PASOK to ND, are not particularly concerned about PASOK’s low-key, low-impact opposition tactics. Nor are they anxious to see the Socialists back in government. If they are skeptical it is because 22 months after its landslide defeat in the general elections, the party has done nothing to remedy the causes. PASOK has done nothing to convince voters it is pushing for the radical changes once heralded by a leader determined to «turn the page.» It seems that Papandreou would rather stage a counter-attack instead of defending against and making concessions to his party rivals. For they are the ones who should shoulder the responsibilities and consequences of defeat. And it is they who are holding back PASOK’s transformation. For sure, Papandreou has many strong arguments against his rivals. But a political leader is not judged only by the soundness of his decisions but also by his boldness and ability to impose them.

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