OPINION

Commentary

No one inside the ruling party has ever questioned the leadership of Costas Simitis – the prime minister who won two electoral battles and who enjoys a recent popular mandate awarded in the April elections last year. This is what top PASOK officials say in their public statements when there is talk about Simitis’s re-election by the party congress whose proceedings start today. This view, however, is at odds with what Simitis himself in June described as the reason for bringing forward the congress. It was Simitis who thought that the public mandate of April 2000 was not enough to legitimize government decisions. In order to gain such legitimacy, he needed a mandate granted by the party’s organized base through a congress. It was the prime minister and party leader himself who questioned his own ability to govern on the public mandate of April 2000, dismayed as he was by the fiasco of the pensions and social security reform. Furthermore, in order to consolidate his position through a congress he threatened his close aides, members of the executive bureau, that he would resign should his demand to bring forward the congress remain unfulfilled. Now, Simitis’s initiative is reaching its end. The congress is starting its proceedings, and backstage activity to muster the necessary majority has been completed. Simitis will receive a boost and, finally, manage to proceed with reform by his weary government. And then what? Will the congress mandate be stronger than the one given in April 2000? Simitis has said that government policy will not be dictated by the congress because he has the mandate of April 2000 for a specific policy which he announced before the elections. What will the political contribution of the congress be apart from the fact that Simitis will increase his leverage vis-a-vis the inner party opposition? Not much, it seems. The prime minister will have to deal with the same problems as now, since the congress commotion will quickly be forgotten. And if Simitis’s next government functions on the logic of the present one, it will display the same poor performance while facing the same opponents.