OPINION

A hasty Venizelos, once again

Evangelos Venizelos is said to be quite clever. And, in fact, he can be very charming on the TV screen. He can put a void concept into a thousand nice-sounding words until all meaning is lost. By the time he arrives at his conclusion, the viewer has already forgotten how he began. Still, that may seem clever. There are two ways of measuring a person’s intelligence. The first concerns the strategy and vision that he has for a society of the future. The second concerns his exact moves on the political chessboard. Vision can be traced in a politician’s writings and career. If you take the time to read some of Venizelos’s many books, you will soon realize that they share the same characteristics of the 20-point statement he presented in September. There is no central argument that runs throughout all of them; you find pretty much everything and its opposite. Venizelos’s political career is even more ambiguous. What has his mark been as a minister? He was the architect of the wordiest constitutional review in history. He was the mastermind of the FYROM embargo. He was the head of the most costly «Cultural City of Europe» Greece has ever known. He is the minister who rushed to censor a painting exhibition. He is the constitutional expert who sided with the non-constitutional viewpoint on the identity card issue. He is the PASOK official who opposed all efforts to rationalize PASOK’s opposition strategy. His most consistent habit has been the careful reading of public surveys. Venizelos has never presented anything near a political platform. Just words – loads of them – plus the imperceptible promise of shrewdness of the type that is said to win election battles. On a tactical level, one cannot help but use an aphorism uttered by Paris Koukoulopoulos. «Venizelos,» the high-ranking Socialist cadre said, «made the wrong decisions at the right moment and the right decisions at the wrong moment.» In 1996, it was the right time for PASOK’s succession. Venizelos made the wrong decision of going against eventual winner Costas Simitis. In September 2007, he made the right decision of embracing Simitis but, this time, his timing was bad. On the night of the September 16 elections, Venizelos made the right decision of running for party leadership. But he announced it at the wrong time, as PASOK supporters were still frustrated by the heavy defeat – as a Socialist official said at the time, Venizelos «came to the funeral to propose to the widow.» On Thursday, Venizelos turned up at Zappeion Hall once again. He could not wait to express his views to PASOK’s institutions, but rushed to distance himself from party leader George Papandreou, releasing a written announcement to the press. But that reminded PASOK members of the past they had tried to banish with Sunday’s election. Whether right or wrong, Venizelos’s remarks were once again made at the wrong moment to shatter the myth of his political intelligence. As for the argument that he is an election winner…