Between Scylla and Charybdis

A battle is being fought within the ruling PASOK party to decide whether Prime Minister George Papandreou will be able to carry out his pledges. The battle has already begun and so far is being won by the faction that wishes to see the maintenance of a strong state with plenty of jobs for their own people and the safeguarding of the vested interests of civil servants and other groups. Papandreou speaks about a postmodern state and online recruitment of capable officials, not necessarily from PASOK. But in practice we are seeing something very unpleasant – key posts on which much depends being filled by party cadres, unionists and failed PASOK politicians. Can they «change everything» when they themselves are products of the status quo? Perhaps the reasoning here is that it takes a thief to catch a thief. The time will come when Papandreou’s promises must be implemented, when gas stations will have cash registers, taxi meters automatically issue receipts and fuel smugglers are caught. Papandreou has the fight in him, as do some of his ministers, but they are pitted against businessmen with strong links to media, the party and members of Parliament, against «gangs» that enjoy the protection of politicians, against representatives of «vulnerable» social groups who will take to the streets at the drop of a hat. Can Papandreou convince Christos Papoutsis, for example, of the need to abolish public servants’ bonuses, when Papoutsis regards them as a vested right? Another danger, indeed more serious, is that Papandreou’s visions will be crushed between market pressure on the one hand and the old PASOK on the other. An economy minister used to be able to promise things knowing that they would never happen because of social pressure. Now there is the European Union and the World Bank hanging over our heads, wanting to see figures. We are caught between Moody’s and Papoutsis.

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