By George Gregoriou
Recent polls gave New Democracy a 6-7 lead in the coming elections. The voters are tired of PASOK. Its leadership burned out, governing fatigue. The voter gets tired hearing the same speeches, the same promises, broken too long. Will George Papandreou save PASOK from defeat? Is New Democracy the answer? Who is Costas Karamanlis? He is the nephew of his uncle. He never held political office. What stand out are his repetitive statements: “Elections now”; “PASOK government is corrupt”; “Simitis is incompetent”; “It is time for change”. The headlines in the conservative media: “Karamanlis is strong, a doer, with principles”.
When Simitis went to Copenhagen to negotiate Cyprus accession into the EU, the headlines were “Karamanlis is in Copenhagen to do battle for Cyprus”. Simitis went to Ankara, so did Karamanlis, to fight for Greek interests. If repetition is the “mother of learning” Karamanlis may be the savior of Greece.
PASOK deserves credit for Cyprus¹ being in the EU on May 1 and the expensive projects for the Olympics. Why is Simitis in deep trouble? Simitis problem is his political line, the turn to the right, doing what New Democracy would do, with vengeance. New Democracy equals free market economy, in a purer form and faster pace than PASOK. Simitis’ slow pace alienated the popular masses and differentiated PASOK from the other parties on the left. He implemented economic and social policies which benefited the few wealthy, at the expense of the middle strata, the shopkeepers, and the wage earners. Simitis cannot have his cake and eat it too.
This the problem of all European social-democracies, German and Scandinavian included. They turn to the right. Big owners of capital accumulate. The masses have to scramble for the bread-crumbs falling off the tables. But, PASOK did not turn far enough to the right to please the well-to-do. And, it cannot win elections without moving to the left.
Remember, it was anti-Bushism which got Schroeder reelected. If Germany could not do it, how could poor Greece to it? The Greek economy could not create enough wealth for all, rich a poor. Bush is a prime example, in the wealthiest country in the world. His hand-outs to the rich require war, “orange” alerts, and lies to stay in office. Lieberman was right on the free market economy and how the trickle down theory works when he said in 2000: If you want to feed the birds, you give more oats to the horses. Is this Bushism, or ND neoliberalism? Will Papandreou suffer Simitis’ fate, even worse if the Kofi Annan Plan is not revised?
The Karamanlis alternative is clear: speed up the process towards privatization, dismantle the social state, and use scare tactics, xenophobia, nationalism, and scandals to cover its neoliberal policies of helping the few at the expense of the many.
Professor, Political Science Department
The William Paterson University
Wayne, New Jersey 07470