PASOK’s dance of the seven veils

The 55-day race did not just decide who was to be PASOK’s leader. As will soon become evident, the contest has left an indelible mark on the party and the political system in general. Undoubtedly, there were side effects. First, the duel sparked in-fighting not only at the top echelons of the party but also at the grassroots level. Second, it fed the arsenal of PASOK’s enemies. Costas Karamanlis and his ministers will certainly use the charges that the two main candidates have traded over the previous days. But politics is more complex than this. The fact that the leadership issue went beyond the confines of the narrow in-party apparatus to become an issue for the whole party will not be without consequences. The prolonged political striptease shattered the rules of a false and apolitical party affiliation. The Socialists’ tensions and contradictions were made public and, in a way, that made PASOK a more appealing party. It also affected the way it sees itself. After many years, and in a somewhat ambiguous manner, politics has returned to PASOK. The truth is that many Socialists saw the November 11 vote not as an official process but as a clash between legality and rebellion. The dichotomy was emphasized by Papandreou’s campaign. He waged a battle from the helm of the party. He did nothing that would bring him down to the level of the other candidates. His actions were vindicated last Sunday, but in the long run mass involvement in developments will undermine him. The coin has two sides, of course. Thanks to the public mandate, Papandreou has strengthened his hand over the party bodies. But this weakens the party’s intermediary role in a representative democracy. In this context, the only factor that can topple a leader is an election defeat.