The concept of a ‘closed group’

A change has been taking place in PASOK over the past few weeks. The formation of a leadership group around party leader George Papandreou has brought major cadres into the game and established a better sense of stability. Leading New Democracy cadres used to wonder why Papandreou, who had people behind him such as Dimitris Reppas, Anna Diamantopoulou and Michalis Chrysochoidis, did not appear in public with them and present them as his team. That question has now been answered and the concept of a «closed group» has become a reality. Those who wondered who would govern with Papandreou have also been answered, although no one can predict how his New Age politics will be interpreted. The PASOK leader will continue to bring in new faces, such as Stavros Lambrinidis and Panos Beglitis, but will keep his tried-and-tested «bench» members beside him. A second change has been the establishment of a PR machine. Before now, there had been no counterweight to government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos. Rarely have there been phone calls from Papandreou’s associates, nor have there been explanations of his positions. There have even been times, such as when he announced his proposal for the extension of Greece’s territorial waters, when no one could be found to explain what exactly the PASOK leader meant. In recent weeks this has changed and, most importantly, the mood is no longer along the lines of: «Everyone is against us, as part of a greater conspiracy.» Papandreou is seeing people, his associates are on the move and one particularly loyal Papandreou cadre will be working on the sidelines where it counts. Above all, Papandreou appears to be finding his place in the heart of politics again. He has made a start with Article 16 of the Constitution, which many feared would fall victim to pressure from unionists and some party cadres. Despite pressure from Evangelos Venizelos, who wanted to turn it into a major partisan issue, Papandreou has not backed down. The question is to what extent people like Diamantopoulou, who theoretically supports Papandreou’s post-reformist policies, will back these policies or whether they will invoke the notorious political cost. It is extremely doubtful whether these changes can alter the political climate to any great degree or even win the elections for PASOK. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis enjoys a political hegemony that will be hard to shake. However, if PASOK makes an effort to convince voters it has the people and the policies needed to govern, that will be to its advantage. After all, the country needs a strong opposition as much as it needs a good government, because it needs more serious dialogue on major issues and, secondly, because Karamanlis is at his best under pressure, while he has an opposing team that is just warming up in the last stretch before the final whistle.