PASOK poll process dogged by doubts

As conflict in PASOK’s inner circle grows and «comradely backstabbing» increases, casting doubt over the future unity of Greece’s second-largest party, concern is growing among PASOK voters and society at large over the reliability of the process of electing a party leader. Enter Costas Simitis to pour oil on the fire by publicly announcing his opposition to the process. Speaking from London, the former prime minister described it as «unacceptable,» noting that unlike the case of party members who are already registered on the party list, it is difficult to define just who the party’s «friends» are and, by extension, to know how sincere their motives are when they cast their vote. For the time being, the two main contenders for the party top spot have refrained from commenting on Simitis’s objections. Evangelos Venizelos chose to reiterate the obligation to implement the provisions of the party’s statutes, while George Papandreou’s position can be taken for granted as he was the one to introduce the process in the first place. If indications, however, prove to be correct and the margin of votes separating the two candidates is small, the loser will almost certainly question the validity of the electoral process, especially as there is already some tension on a philosophical level concerning the makeup of the electoral body (members versus friends), as well as the practical issue of the manner in which the elections are held (voting centers and representatives). In theory, one cannot really argue with Papandreou’s original idea of electing a president via a public election process. It is obvious that the PASOK leader was inspired by the primaries in the United States, where Democratic and Republican party chiefs are elected in an open vote by party members as well as by those who are on the electoral lists of each party. This is where the crux of the Greek problem lies. It may sound strange, but in the USA citizens are listed on the electoral roll as Republican, Democrat or independent, without this meaning that they cannot vote differently. They have an official list that is also used in the primaries. This is not the case in Greece. In 2004, when the process was first implemented here, there was no one in opposition for the post of party leader. Conditions are very different today. In the prevailing climate of polarization, the credibility of the electoral process may be disputed and, should this happen, it will just widen the rift in the party base.