OPINION

Words and mirrors

Prime Minister Costas Simitis tossed aside his prepared speech when addressing a party gathering in Edessa in northern Greece on Saturday, where he referred to «a strategy which is reminiscent of a policy of undermining democracy.» He tossed aside all restraint as well – the spoken word is always more dangerous than the written one. In order to satisfy his audience, or possibly in order to arouse it, he first forgot that even when speaking at party gatherings, he is still the prime minister of the country. Secondly, he contradicted what he himself had said a few days earlier, that the democratic system was under no threat whatsoever. In contrast to the moderation and the composed manner when dealing with matters that is often attributed to him – whether rightly or not – the head of the government seems highly prone to populist rhetoric when articulating his thoughts or expressing his feelings ex tempore – that is when he departs from the profile which has been designed by the government image makers. On these occasions, which seem to be growing in frequency, Simitis uses the words and gestures of someone in sore distress and on the defensive. These, however, are often reminiscent of the words and gestures of a politically insecure leader (but for this, he should blame his colleagues who make up the strongest opposition) or of a person who, by divine right, deems incomprehensible (and consequently «a product of conspiracy») any criticism of his works and time in power. It is very interesting that Simitis, in a prepared speech, severed all connection with PASOK’s 20-year rule and defended his own governance alone: «For six years, there has been a government which has worked with passion, courage and consistency. These six years have seen a governmental oeuvre marked by stability, progress and national self-confidence.» Given that in the very terms he used, «their words are their mirror,» does Simitis then admit that during the rule of «the old PASOK,» there was no «passion, courage, progress and national self-confidence?» But weren’t he and half of the ministers of the present government also ministers at the time?