Full circle

The first round of Greece’s municipal and prefectural elections was significant less for its outcome than for the nature of the pre-election period, which revealed the extremely dangerous policy that Prime Minister Costas Simitis will follow up until Greece’s parliamentary elections, whenever these take place. The element underscored by the Socialists’ election campaign was that Simitis’s reformist image has been a political fabrication which attempted to disguise a traumatic redistribution of wealth as a consequence of Greece’s harmonization with the European Union. At the same time, in his search for an ideological platform, the premier chose to instigate a head-on collision between the government and the Church of Greece, while belatedly invoking the threat posed by the far right and its supposed alliance with the conservative party. The crumbling of Simitis’s ideological artifice of reformism is pushing the premier and the Socialist PASOK party into a primeval political confrontation which will not cease with the run-off vote next weekend but will, instead, form the basis for an extremely perilous and divisive policy extending until the spring of 2004, the date of the next parliamentary elections. The compensation that the State will have to pay for confiscating the royal property will be the next issue picked up by Simitis in order to unleash his new anti-royal campaign, as if former king Constantine were hankering to move from London to the old palace on Herodou Attikou. Crude as PASOK’s communication policy may be, it can still be effective; and it would be a mistake for the conservative party to get caught up in the dilemmas posed by their Socialist opponents. Greece’s conservative voters should not feel accountable to anyone – especially not Simitis and his reformist aides. They are not under any kind of supervision, nor are they implicated by such charges. All parties have committed errors, sometimes tragic, in their history. What determines the viability of a party is whether it has a vision and political proposals for the future that take into account Greece’s average citizen, who has been sidelined by PASOK. Any party must not only represent the interests of the nomenclature which has emerged over the past few years. It must also preserve and reinforce the character of the Greek nation at the present juncture. Everything suggests that PASOK and the Simitis government have come full circle, and that they can summon no specter or myth that could sway public opinion. We should not be surprised if, in looking for points of dispute, Simitis harks all the way back to the 1848 National Assembly. On his way out, PASOK’s reformist leader is talking to history.