Legless in front of goal

When you overstep the mark in politics, you may find yourself without a leg to stand on. Polarization served a purpose when PASOK was trying to undo the impression that its policies differed little from those of New Democracy. But once the bonds scandal was out, George Papandreou was practically alone in front of the goal. Instead of indulging in blanket rejection, he should have taken the time to expose the administration’s obvious attempts to conceal the wrongdoing of the officials involved. That would have at least found a sympathetic ear, even among right-of-center voters who are just as irked at the looting of the pension funds. Instead of seizing this unique opportunity, Papandreou unleashed a disjointed and populist tirade reminiscent of the past. Ultimately, he was weak and off target. It had taken months for PASOK to push ND against the ropes. Papandreou’s biggest mistake is not that he has left behind his once-trademark postmodern political views that appeal to certain social groups, nor that he is trying to strike a personal blow against the prime minister (often testing the limits of political correctness). The mistake was that his artless posturing was a gift to his political foes, especially Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis and his deputy, Petros Doukas. It is no coincidence that they too are now fueling the already polarized climate. After all, partisanship provides a good disguise for their responsibilities. The fact that PASOK is having difficulty capitalizing on the decline of the ruling party is not only due to the way it has handled this particular scandal. It’s also because memories of the sins of the Simitis administration are still vivid and, most crucially, because Papandreou has so far failed to put forward a coherent plan about where he wants to take the country.

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