OPINION

Issue of succession

…The prospect of a heavy electoral defeat has mobilized PASOK’s survival instinct and is responsible for the rising tension within the Socialist camp over the recent period. Inner-party discontent with Prime Minister Costas Simitis is qualitatively different from that of previous years. In the past, reactions came from the internal opposition, from those who disagreed with his policies, and those who felt sidelined by the premier. This is why dissent was kept within bounds. These days, the challenge to Simitis is less blatant but much more dangerous, for it stems from PASOK’s core. If in 1996 Simitis was elected prime minister and, shortly afterward, nominated Socialist party leader, it was because he was seen as the only person who could guarantee electoral victory and keep the Socialists in power. The same party officials now perceive him as a factor that will lead to defeat. As a consequence, party maneuvering over the issue of succession has intensified. PASOK will, in all probability, be defeated in the municipal and prefectural elections, a result which will have an inevitable effect on the climate preceding parliamentary elections. No rhetorical nor public relations ruse can help Simitis overcome the problem. It is not New Democracy which is Simitis’s principal enemy. It’s rather his growing political weariness coupled with public disaffection…