Hostage to the party

The never-ending skirmishing within PASOK, the repeated digs against George Papandreou from party barons and backward advisers pushing the socialist party leader into the zone of 1980s-style populism are a putoff for the prudent voter. National progress mandates strong hands on the helm of the country and the presence of a serious opposition that is capable of cautious and constructive criticism. Modern democracies simply work this way. The opposition’s role is set out in the constitution – but PASOK is doing a poor job at the task. The government recently submitted an education bill that (despite falling short of most people’s expectations) addresses key issues, such as university asylum and the maximum years of matriculation. PASOK’s response has been muted – or, at best, a bunch of generalities that encourage small minorities to keep a lock on the institutions’ gates. Three years after taking over the mantle of PASOK’s leadership, Papandreou is the king of lost opportunities. That’s a pity given his record as education and foreign minister. He was the first to campaign for a U-turn in Greece’s policy toward Turkey and to speak of non-state universities. And now he is singing in tune with the Communist Party (KKE) and Synaspismos Left Coalition. This bold politician has ended up hostage to the whims of a bunch of ruthless opportunists within PASOK who have advised him to shy away from education reform so as not to lose votes among academics. If Papandreou slammed the government reforms as inadequate, if he put forward PASOK’s proposals and called on students and professors to open up the institutions, PASOK’s ratings would soar. Too bad he has become prisoner to his own party.