PASOK crippled by internal strife

The tension that characterized Monday’s session of PASOK’s political council, under the chairmanship of party leader George Papandreou, demonstrated in the most vivid way the reasons the opposition party lags so seriously behind the ruling conservatives and why Papandreou is incapable of challenging the political hegemony of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. PASOK’s top-ranking cadres, who are the natural leaders of the party and constitute a large part of its political culture, have moved past their personal squabbles and appear unable to agree on several fundamental points: firstly, whether the results of the recent prefectural and municipal elections constitute a defeat for ruling New Democracy and the beginning of a transformation of the existing political landscape; secondly, to what extent PASOK has managed to shape an efficient and effective opposition under Papandreou; and, thirdly, whether PASOK’s central office should have made a comprehensive proposal for the revision of Article 16 of the Constitution, permitting the creation of private universities, and contributed toward breaking the deadlock between the government and teachers, who are still on strike. In other words, nearly three years since Papandreou assumed the leadership of PASOK and as the countdown to the general elections in 2008 begins, the opposition leader has failed to secure even a minimum level of understanding with key cadres such as Evangelos Venizelos, a former culture minister, and Anna Diamantopoulou, a former European social affairs commissioner, regarding the basic parameters of the current political landscape and the adequacy of the party’s opposition tactics. However, it is clear that society, and the critical mass of voters who occupy the middle ground of the political spectrum and determine the outcome of elections, is more likely to trust a political party that sets out specific goals and conditions that guarantee political stability. Monday’s chaotic session of PASOK’s political council merely shows that the opposition party is in no position to undertake the responsibility of government.