A new challenge

…How is it possible that Costas Simitis, whom the Socialist party has considered its most powerful asset in the past six years and the driving force behind two electoral victories, is now denounced as the main cause of PASOK’s sliding popularity, prompting demands for his timely replacement? Prima facie, this may sound a tough question but the answer is, in fact, quite simple. The party questions the current prime minister for the same reason that it selected him as a successor to the late Andreas Papandreou in 1996, believing that Simitis, more than any other, could guarantee that PASOK would win the elections, even as a destroyer of Papandreou’s sacred legacy. On the same basis, the party now deems that Simitis can no longer guarantee a victory. This rationale seems extremely unjust but, unfortunately for the prime minister, his inner-party victories have until now proved fleeting, including his triumph at the party congress last October where he was re-elected with more than 70 percent of the assembly. But what is this all-powerful and fickle party mechanism made up of? Of the 5,200 members at the October congress, more than 3,500 were longstanding state-dependent executives who hold senior posts in the public sector; posts that are at stake in each political changeover… Therefore, PASOK’s senior officials are under intense pressure to create the conditions – at all cost – for a new electoral victory. It is in this context that Simitis’s leadership is being challenged. But the challenge now derives from the very base of the party mechanism and has no relation – at least at this stage – with the personal objectives of party barons and disaffected cadres as was the case until recently…

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