Naming the problem

The fact that opinion polls show George Papandreou as running neck-and-neck with Evangelos Venizelos made possible an agreement on procedural matters and eased fears of division. Earlier on, when Venizelos came across as the clear favorite for the leadership, sources near Papandreou had hinted that they might torpedo the party ahead of the November 11 vote. «Papandreou would never surrender PASOK to Venizelos,» they said. The incident at the parliamentary group was product of that mood. If things did not come to a head, it was because Papandreou was reluctant to take such a risky initiative that could go either way. The incident damaged his rise, but only temporarily. Making things better for Papandreou, Venizelos shot himself in the foot. But the main reason for Papandreou’s good standing lies elsewhere. PASOK is not a typical European party. Rather, its broader apparatus works along tribal lines. Like Arsenis before him, the Thessaloniki-born baron is considered a «stranger.» His many shortcomings are barely tolerated. Papandreou, on the other hand, is the founder’s son. Although ideologically speaking, he is at odds with his late father, the dynasty factor counts in his favor. This is why, although many Socialist cadres consider him responsible for the repeated defeats and unsuitable as leader, he still has so many people on his side. Even when Papandreou made blatant mistakes, people sought to blame the bad counselor behind the curtain. Following September’s heavy defeat, any party with a strong sense of survival would have turned its back on Papandreou. If the problem were the «arrogant,» «corrupt» and «rightist» Venizelos, as it were, then Costas Skandalidis’s ratings should be sky-high. Skandalidis is more competent than the current leader and does not carry the weight of a negative election result. The problem, it seems, is his surname.

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