Standing up to the old boys

Over the next few weeks, we are all waiting to see how the battle between the old «deep» PASOK and the party’s new incarnation pans out. As succinctly put by an experienced old hand in the ruling party: «We have three opposition parties: the Communist Party, SYRIZA and deep PASOK.» The battle lines have been drawn and they are not always ideological. Naturally, PASOK’s populist faction is alive and kicking and refuses to understand that the country is in the midst of a financial crisis or that reforms are really necessary. It believes that the social security issue and the fiscal crisis can be solved painlessly. That is the PASOK that resisted George Papandreou’s desire to change Article 16 of the Constitution and the faction that former PASOK leader Costas Simitis had to deal with when he tried to reform the social security system. But there are also personal differences at play. There are two kinds of government officials, those in the «presidential guard» to whom Papandreou has entrusted critical posts, and the few successful cadres that emerged during the Simitis years. The question is a simple one and has to do with careers, as the old party hacks don’t understand why they themselves aren’t in ministerial positions. The major issue is that neither Papandreou nor his cabinet members who really want to get things done can do so by ignoring deep PASOK completely. The score is already 2-0 in favor of the latter, considering Christos Papoutsis’s victory over the question of freezing public service wages and Dimitris Reppas’s statement in favor of the Acheloos diversion project that contradicted Environment Minister Tina Birbili’s own statement. In both cases, old partisan vested interests prevailed. So it is extremely important that the prime minister send out a strong message next time there is a clash between the status quo and the forces of reform.

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