PASOK hostage to past mistakes

If PASOK were a small political party, the navel-gazing that seems to be plaguing Socialist officials lately would be an issue for the party leadership, cadres and, perhaps, even voters. However to the degree that PASOK is the leading opposition party, the causes of the ongoing crisis and George Papandreou’s ability to overcome them hold greater interest, for they have an effect on political developments at large. There are two hypotheses for PASOK’s internal dissent: First, Papandreou’s failure to present a clear political discourse creates the ideal setting for a conflict between old-style socialists and the reformists, the two rival trends within the party. Second, some PASOK officials have never come to terms with Papandreou’s position at the helm of the party and have resorted to undermining tactics with one eye fixed on the new power balance should PASOK be defeated in the next elections. Whichever scenario is true, the political conundrum for Papandreou remains. PASOK and Papandreou himself have seen their image repeatedly marred of late and the new round of opinion polls is not far off. But turning the tables will not be easy, as Papandreou is himself hostage to past mistakes, such as his decision to go with a «ripe fruit» policy, that is, waiting for the government to fall by itself. Moreover, he was reluctant to take disciplinary action against those who questioned him when he took over from Costas Simitis – when he still had a tight grip on the party and early elections were not in the cards. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that in order to dispel navel-gazing, the PASOK leadership has turned against the alleged vested interests that are trying to destabilize Papandreou. This of course does not exclude the possibility of business interests that wish to have the PASOK leader in the palm of their hand.