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PASOK seeks its way between the populist past and the uncertain future

05 September 2014 / 16:09:07  GRReporter
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Simona Peneva

     The socialists from PASOK celebrated the 40th anniversary of the party with two events last week. The party was founded on 3 September 1974 by Andreas Papandreou, and its main slogans of the time were "National independence, national sovereignty, social emancipation, democratic process." As early as 1981, PASOK became the first centre-left party that won the majority in the Greek parliament (48% of the vote). In 1986, the socialist government amended the Greek Constitution to cancel most of the powers of the President and give more power to the Prime Minister and the government. It established the national health system and eliminated various repressive anti-communist laws, increased salaries, pursued an independent and multidimensional foreign policy, made many reforms in family law to strengthen the rights of women. In 1984, it removed the Greek gendarmerie.
     In 1996, after the death of founder Andreas Papandreou, the leadership position was taken by Kostas Simitis. He was faced with the most significant crisis in Greek foreign policy in more than twenty years when, because of the small Aegean island Imia, Greece and Turkey were on the verge of war with each other. During his leadership, PASOK succeeded in terms of two major issues - in September 1997, Greece won the right to organize the Summer Olympic Games in 2004 and in 2001, it was confirmed that the country would join the Eurozone.
     Kostas Simitis resigned on 7 January 2004 and his place was occupied by George Papandreou, Andreas Papandreou's son.  The socialists lost the parliamentary elections the same year and the conservative New Democracy assumed power. The party returned to power in 2009 but lost much of its popular support as a result of the unprecedented austerity measures and the relevant international bailout requested by the government of George Papandreou in response to the crisis with the Greek government debt. After two parliamentary elections in which no party was able to form a parliamentary majority, PASOK agreed to form a coalition government with its conservative rival, New Democracy, in June 2012. Leader of the socialists became Evangelos Venizelos who still occupies this post today. 
     Nowadays, the support for the socialists is so low that they are literally fighting to enter the next Greek parliament. "The party needs new standards, regeneration and new faces. A realistic and effective intervention is required. This is how we will convince society and regain their trust," said former Prime Minister Kostas Simitis. He made clear and sharp remarks about the political arguments of George Papandreou, referring to the phrase "There is money", that made possible the victory of PASOK in 2009. According to Simitis, "some members of PASOK remain firmly committed to the past, proudly showing their limitations", apparently referring to the infamous booing of Evangelos Venizelos at the start of the week. "Everyone who works and wants to participate in a creative process quickly finds the ways that express him or her," added the former Prime Minister. He believes that the country needs honesty, truth, seriousness, perspectives and readiness for change. PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos also expressed his views on the events that happened on Monday, "This was mean behaviour that has nothing to do with democracy, political culture and progressive morality. We have no ethical, political and aesthetic connection with these events." The party leader expressed regret that Papandreou was unable to attend the main celebration due to an urgent engagement in London.
     He made some harsh remarks to former Prime Minister George Papandreou, without naming him. "I fought to prevent the flirting with the IMF in 2009. I prevented the failure of the referendum on ‘yes or no to the euro’. I took over the leadership of PASOK not with 44% but with 4% rating, about which they were constantly asking me at the meetings of the Eurogroup. I did not have a career thanks to PASOK. I am not having a career as the leader of PASOK. I am not the leader of a small personal, private party." Evangelos Venizelos mentioned the achievements of the party from the time of Andreas Papandreou and urged all to continue forward together, with a single criterion, namely to vote for PASOK. A characteristic of the party remains patriotism that has always been on top of its value system and that means national responsibility and expedience, as well as the democratic nature where the main role is played by the protection of institutions and democratic stability in the confrontation with demagoguery and populism, the progressive nature where the main role is played by truth, changes and radical nature. "We can, as long as you are ready to pursue, and fight for, your goals," said Evangelos Venizelos.
     Will the calls of Venizelos and Simitis be heard by the traditional electorate of PASOK, which is already turning to the radical left SYRIZA party and Stavros Theodorakis’ movement To Potami? It remains to be seen in the next parliamentary elections in Greece, which should take place in 2016, but it seems that we will not have to wait so long.

Tags: PASOKGreek socialistsAndreas PapandreouKostas SimitisGeorge PapandreouEvangelos Venizelos
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