By George Gregoriou
Recent polls gave Nea Demokratia a 2-3 lead in the coming elections. It was 6-7 before George Papandreou was catapulted to be PASOK’s leader. Are the voters still tired of PASOK. The Simitis leadership burned out, referred to as governing fatigue. Voters get tired seeing the same faces, hearing the same speeches and promises, broken too long. Will George Papandreou save PASOK from defeat? Does he offer only a new face and an old name or a new direction in Greek politics? A new direction will be mostly in domestic politics, whether Karamanlis or Papandreou is Prime Minister on March 7.
There will be no surprises in foreign policy. Karamanlis and Papandreou are pro-American and Greece is part of the European Union.
Is Nea Demokratia the answer? Who is Costas Karamanlis? He is the nephew of his uncle. He never held political office. He is on the offensive. What stood out were his repetitive statements: “Elections right now”; “the PASOK establishment is corrupt”; “Simitis is incompetent”; “It is time for change”. The headlines in the conservative media were: “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. Tassos Papadopoulos went to Athens to meet Simitis, Karamanlis went to Nicosia to meet Papadopoulos. Whatever Simitis does, Karamanlis did the same. He will not be upstaged. If “repetition” and “mimicking” determines Greek elections Karamanlis may be the next PM of Greece.
PASOK deserves credit for Cyprus’ being in the EU on May 1, Greece’s membership in ONE, 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 Nea Demokratia would do, with vengeance. Nea Demokratia 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 could not veer to the right and hold on to the masses of voters who kept PASOK in power for two decades. That is why he is out.
This is the problem of all European social-democracies, German and Scandinavian included. They turn to the right. They abandon the masses. 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. It only succeeded in displeasing the popular masses. Now, to win the March 7 election, it has to move to the left. Remember, it was anti-Bushism which got Schroeder reelected, barely.
If Germany could not do it, how could poor Greece to it? The Greek economy could not create enough wealth for all, rich and poor. Bush is a prime example, in the wealthiest country in the world. His becoming president through a “legalized” coup d’ tat, his hand-outs to the rich require war and lies, war on the poor and curtailment of civil liberties, “orange” alerts, and more lies to hold on to power for four more years. 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 [masses], you give more oats to the horses.” This is Bushism. Is ND neoliberalism different? Will Papandreou change the policies or suffer Simitis¹ fate, even a worse fate 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 Nea Demokratia’s neoliberal policies of helping the few at the expense of the many.
Professor, Political Science Department
The William Paterson University
Wayne, New Jersey 07470