The wrong cause

Kostas Simitis, the former Socialist premier, does not see himself in the dustbin of history just yet. He’s still making noise, criticizing the New Democracy administration while taking potshots at George Papandreou, his successor at the helm of PASOK. All is good, even though voters would rather see Simitis use his experience to help the country, and especially parties trying to unite in the face of chronic challenges. Regrettably, instead of rising above party lines, Simitis has opted to play the role of PASOK supervisor. Perhaps he is still bitter about being forced out of the party leadership in 2004. His ambitions may not be useful to Greece, but they are human. What is hard to understand is that instead of pushing PASOK away from the populist path it has chosen, he is rather fueling polarization vis-a-vis the conservatives. But Simitis cannot pass as a Socialist-flag-carrying ideologue. In his eight-year tenure, he worked hard to strip PASOK of its Socialist identity. His reformist campaign was an attempt to bury the Socialist visions of Andreas Papandreou’s orthodox heirs. The old PASOK, of course, is still around. But Simitis’s reformist campaign was in tune with the needs of the times, even if proved to be a failure. Moreover, in our globalized world, the dividing lines between mainstream parties are increasingly blurred. Sure, Papandreou may still sing the Socialist International anthem next to Massimo d’Alema and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. But if PASOK ever has to grapple with issues such as social security, economic growth, foreign investment, fiscal stability and investment, it won’t be called on to search for ideological recipes but merely to adopt policies of its EU peers – just like Germany’s Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats now do.