Old is gold

Costas Laliotis’s comeback is a politically loaded move. George Papandreou, the leader of the Socialists, was not keen to pluck the ejected party secretary from PASOK’s reserves. Although fine on the surface, their relationship has always been somewhat antagonistic. Some hold that Costas Simitis’s decision to ditch Laliotis as party secretary in the summer of 2003 enjoyed Papandreou’s approval. Much water has gone under the bridge since then. Laliotis was invited to join PASOK’s election team in March 2004. He was then called on to assume the chairmanship of the PASOK party convention. Both roles were short-lived. The former secretary was keen to return but Papandreou did not want him under his feet. It’s an open secret that Laliotis can barely be confined to a single role. His image and personality make him bound to play a leading role. True, Laliotis made many overtures as he eyed a comeback to the top echelons of the party. At the same time, many within PASOK urged Papandreou to take the first step. In the end, Papandreou’s nod was dictated by political expediency. And everything seems to indicate that this time Laliotis is back to stay. Papandreou knows that the election outcome will determine his own future. He will do everything it takes to improve his chances. He too knows that Laliotis is grand spinmeister – with a charisma that will prove useful in the election battle but also on the day after. A defeat for PASOK will lead Evangelos Venizelos to question Papandreou’s leadership. The deal, reports suggest, is that in that case, Laliotis will back Papandreou. Of course, Laliotis’s return is a confession of Papandreou’s failure. The staff that he himself picked has failed him. Papandreou, the champion of renewal, has been forced to acknowledge the merits of the old guard.