Surprise move blurs PASOK image more

The surprise decision by PASOK leader George Papandreou to appoint Gulbeyaz Karahasan, a Greek-Muslim woman, as PASOK’s candidate for Drama-Kavala-Xanthi prefecture in October proved to be a tactical success. The move caught the conservative ruling party by surprise and, combined with the controversial reaction by the local minister Giorgos Kalatzis, it allowed the Socialist party to use it as evidence of the purported dividing lines between the two mainstream parties. After all Papandreou did not have much to lose. PASOK would most probably lose the Drama-Kavala-Xanthi prefecture poll, regardless of the candidate nominated by New Democracy. However, with the Karahasan nomination PASOK hopes to sway undecided voters from the Muslim minority in the battle for the Komotini-Evros prefecture, as well as at the next general election. Moreover, Papandreou succeeded in ending a prolonged period of navel-gazing inside the Socialist camp and cast his party in a more positive light. Papandreou’s initiative was a success in terms of public relations, but it nevertheless came with much of the fuzziness that has accompanied the opposition over the past couple of years. Despite Papandreou’s confident declarations of participatory democracy inside PASOK, Karahasan’s nomination was made in a hegemonic fashion. It was not the first time. The same go-it-alone posturing was evident in his decision to put then-newcomers Maria Damanaki, Mimis Androulakis, Stefanos Manos and Andreas Andrianopoulos on the list of state deputy candidates and to make the virtually unknown Mary Matsouka the top candidate on PASOK’s ballot for European elections. Papandreou made a bold decision that is not necessarily driven by ulterior motives. But that cannot offset the Socialists’ deficits or the manner in which the party leader is handling the issue of local administration.