The dark side of the ‘alliance’
Could the most crucial issue besetting the ordinary citizen and Greek society these days be whether PASOK Socialists will cooperate with Synaspismos Left Coalition and the potential shape of such an alliance? This is the impression one gets watching senior officials from both parties speculating endlessly on television and reading the cluster of written commentaries. Of course, this is not the first time our political parties have indulged in navel-gazing, assuming the electorate’s sympathy with their existential angst and their desperate pursuit of machinations that will allow them to perpetuate their grip on power. The ruling Socialists have an existential angst which is pushing them to bargain with a section of the left. The price for PASOK is what the lure is for Synaspismos: the joint administration and exploitation of the public coffers. It is legitimate for a party to seek to reinforce itself politically (also by building alliances) in order to maintain or acquire power. However, it is also legitimate for the ordinary voter to examine the incentives behind such alliances, to judge the machinations of the two partners, to ponder the prospect of such experiments – and to do so not behind party blinders but with the common good in mind. The motive behind this rapprochement initiated by PASOK is obviously to compensate for a relinquished section of its electoral base – that of center-right voters – by annexing an equal, if not greater, share of leftist voters. The initiative also underscores the fact that Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his modernizing aides have given up all hope of covering the lost center-right ground as the overture to the left marks the end of Simitis’s fishing in the pool of right-wing supporters. Furthermore, it implies that the battle between the «new» and the «old» that has characterized the party for the past seven years has suddenly retreated, giving way to the old PASOK – with its traditionally left-leaning policy. This internal party shift has not been triggered by disapproval of the recent centrist policies or the social sacrifices demanded for EMU accession. For as it was recently disclosed, creative accounting by the Simitis administration disguised an additional public debt of 3.5 trillion drachmas (10.3 billion euros). It’s easy to see what the size of debt would be today had Simitis, during 1998-2000, succumbed to requests for more socially sensitive policies made by his party rivals now advocating an overture to the left. Such an overture serves the goal of a new Socialist election victory – at any price. It also shows that the specter of losing power is the gravest risk for PASOK. This is the survival instinct that knows no rules, inhibitions, political consistency or morality. This is the instinct which drove the late prime minister Andreas Papandreou to urge his economy minister Dimitris Tsovolas to «give it all» in 1989. The late Socialist cadre Menios Koutsogiorgas’s electoral law, which required New Democracy to muster more than 48 percent (when PASOK had 38 percent) to form a government, served the same objective. These two examples are not accidental. For a supposedly more «social friendly» economic policy and a more proportional electoral system are the basis for a rapprochement between PASOK and Synaspismos. Of course, neither Tsovolas nor Koutsogiorgas’s law achieved their short-term aim. But they entailed negative long-term repercussions for Greece. If Simitis and his former reformist aides would prefer to forget this, Greek citizens must certainly not.