OPINION

Political vendetta

The divorce came with a 15-year delay. As usually happens in these cases, it was a bitter separation, with both sides trying to exterminate each other. Costas Simitis should have left PASOK back in 1987 when the late Andreas Papandreou revoked his economic austerity measures. And, if not in 1987, then definitely in 1995. It was then that Papandreou forced him to resign from his post as minister of industry and commerce after he effectively accused him of doing a poor job. Simitis swallowed both insults but he was clever enough not to leave the Socialist party. He knew that with a frail Papandreou and an ailing Georgios Gennimatas, the helm of the party would sooner or later fall into his hands. His patience paid off. In 1996, he became prime minister and then president of the PASOK party. Simitis knew, however, that the old guard did not want him as president, for they knew that Papandreou disliked him. Besides, his aspirations were not to unify the party or inspire a new vision among its voters but rather to make a new party. In public, he spoke of a reformist party that would introduce deep social changes, breaking with the forces of conservatism. In practice, however, he lacked the courage for real change. All that was left was an elite of dedicated people, most of whom were implicated in the stock market scandal. So despite the productive first term, Simitis and PASOK grew allergic to one another. Simitis failed to change PASOK. So PASOK changed him, putting (with the help of big interests) George Papandreou in his place. Simitis left with his head bowed and promised to take his revenge on his successor. His provocative letter was a way to lash out at Papandreou and, for the first time in his clash with the Papandreous, he seems to be losing. Now he will show if he has the strength to create a party with a strong appeal. If he became premier and party leader, it was thanks to the Papandreou legacy that he opposed. Only public support could vindicate his independent role.