PASOK’s traveling circus

George Papandreou, Greece’s Socialist prime minister, has finally announced his new Cabinet lineup. The much-heralded reshuffle has introduced a bigger government – with the number of Cabinet members rising to 48 from 36 – which is in itself an interesting fact given the more sober mood that has settled over the nation with the strict austerity measures. At the same time, it is hard to see how the premier will be capable of coordinating this bigger Cabinet given that success was limited with a smaller one. The timing was also odd. The Cabinet reshuffle should have taken place once the local elections were over and done with, so that Papandreou would have the chance to show that he had supposedly «got the message» in the case of defeat and make any necessary changes. Instead, the Socialist leader chose to convey the impression of fresh momentum in a bid to limit the damage from local elections. That’s all well and good. After all, the prime minister will be the one to pay the price for any mistakes. Nevertheless, the decision to summon the Cabinet to Thessaloniki tomorrow is, politically speaking, immature. The cost of transporting all 48 members of the Cabinet to Thessaloniki (drivers, vehicles, aides and so on) and the cost of accommodating them amounts to meaningless waste. At the same time, the gesture is an insult to the residents of a city beset by a very high unemployment rate. It is always annoying to see the northern port city catapulted onto center stage thanks to the annual International Trade Fair, only to be forgotten immediately afterward. By treating the people of northern Greece, especially the inhabitants of Thessaloniki, as country bumpkins, the Cabinet members are behaving like an itinerant troupe that is doing little more than parading its political poverty on the excuse of some interest in the provinces. Some people will clap their hands, others will boo, but the vast majority will simply shrug their shoulders at this meaningless display.

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