OPINION

Time of truth for the socialist party

The political strength of PASOK and the Coalition of the Radical Left, or SYRIZA, is different to what was indicated by opinion polls conducted from January onward. Until recently, public surveys showed that the gap between Greece’s two left-of-center parties was narrower than ever before. Although it has not remedied some major problems that resulted in its free fall in recent opinion polls, PASOK finally appears to be following a specific plan. Regardless of whether one agrees with the Socialists, they have actually taken a number of initiatives that have catapulted the party back to political center stage. PASOK leader George Papandreou initiated a no-confidence vote against the conservative administration of New Democracy, a move that helped to offset the feeling that the party is going along with SYRIZA’s demands for a referendum on the government’s social security reform package. Papandreou has also managed to reinforce his party’s sense of unity in three steps: First, he assigned Evangelos Venizelos, his main challenger for the party leadership, as parliamentary representative; he then appointed Yiannis Ragousis as party spokesman; and, finally, he made Giorgos Papaconstantinou press spokesman. The socialist leader finally has displayed a responsible stance on national issues, joining hands with the government in cementing a solid front ahead of the crucial NATO summit in Bucharest. Over the same period, SYRIZA has given the impression of being too big for its boots, as the only thing to emerge from SYRIZA’s headquarters in Koumoundourou Square was arrogance. Alekos Alavanos’s disparaging reaction to the socialist censure move was a strong sign of such posturing. It’s no coincidence that the head of SYRIZA’s parliamentary group retracted his earlier statement. PASOK officials hope that the change of mood will be reflected in the coming round of polls where they expect PASOK to improve its ratings. In light of the above, the forthcoming opinion polls will play a very crucial role in PASOK’s future: A PASOK failure to capitalize on recent political developments will show that its decline is due to structural factors and that the newly empowered SYRIZA is here to stay. In other words, a poor performance will suggest that voters simply no longer want to listen to PASOK or to its leader, even when they are speaking correctly.