OPINION

Self-punishment

In 1996, PASOK sold its soul to Costas Simitis to prolong its stay at the apex of power. Had it not been for that pragmatic objective, reformism would have remained a theoretical promise and its evangelist yet another leader who just missed the mark. That new political fuel kept PASOK going up to 2004. Then, addicted to convenience as they were, the Socialists nourished the delusion that they could avoid defeat by repeating the last-minute captain switch. Intoxicated with the myth of the knight in shining armor, PASOK embraced George Papandreou as a savior. PASOK was deaf to the political message of its own heavy defeat. It sought comfort in delusions. It soon appeared that the new leader was able neither to revamp the party nor to carry out effective opposition. Nor could it present any credible alternative for the country. Rather opportunistically, the Socialist party barons avoided challenging his leadership on the grounds that this could only be done after a defeat in general elections. Although the government was seriously hit by the structured bonds scandal and the devastating wildfires, PASOK’s power saw another two-point decline. Public disapproval was obvious and left no room for misinterpretation. But this still fell short of triggering PASOK’s survival instinct. Having long ceased to function as a political organization and with the barons soaked in opportunism, the movement is once again shying away from a political solution to its problem. It looks for safety in the dynasty and tribe syndromes, by mobilizing substitutes. It put defeat behind it by willingly swallowing Papandreou’s self-criticism and his pledge to change himself. Costas Skandalidis’s candidacy is vastly ignored. And the party is trying to get rid of Evangelos Venizelos by identifying him with everything it scorned but has embraced in self-interest: Simitis, entangled interests and the lust for power.