The congress of the ruling PASOK party, the proceedings of which begin today, is an indication of the unexpected and striking changes that often occur in politics. It was originally thought that the congress would question the authority of Prime Minister Costas Simitis – who had been forced to bring it forward in response to mounting dissent within his party – but it will finally mark his triumphant predominance. Simitis even reached the point of canceling an official visit to China only a few days before the scheduled trip so that he could keep a close eye on internal developments. However, rather than facing dramatic party dissension, Simitis will receive a boost and consolidate his position inside the party. In the few months since June, no other pole emerged which could contest for power either in the short or long term. The only remaining challenge for Simitis is to transcend the 64-percent threshold, the percentage he got in 1999. Regardless of whether the prime minister is able to muster a similar percentage – which is up to the assembly – the Greek public is more interested in seeing an end to the sterile PASOK rivalry after the congress. A majority of the Greek citizens elected PASOK into power. But as the ruling party has demonstrated in the past, and in a way that has damaged the country’s interests, its internal skirmishing is reflected in government performance. Party democracy is fully expressed through the parties’ assemblies, which secure the existence of leadership groups approved by the majority of the party members. But from the moment the relevant procedures have been completed, minorities – especially those inside the ruling party of the time – have a duty to exercise their political preferences in a manner that will not paralyze the government. PASOK has a very bad record in this area. This phenomenon, however, has to stop. The party opposition reserves the right to act in a way which it thinks will turn it into a majority trend. However, responsibility for government performance, as well as the public mandate, force the ruling party’s minority at the time to serve the government program, whose success is not judged at the congress but rather at the parliamentary elections.

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