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PASOK is trying to find its ideological face

01 March 2013 / 21:03:58  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

PASOK’s leader Evangelos Venizelos opened the 9th party congress with a long speech, self-critical at times, which was not really surprising. In it, he described how "the charm and the bad consequences of the ruling" have affected the party and deeply criticized the corruption, clientelist relations and close cooperation with statesmanship rooted in it. "We have failed to reject the clientelist practices," he said.

At the same time, he described the years after the restoration of the democracy in Greece as "the best historical period" and said that PASOK was proud of its achievements. Among them, he cited the elimination of inequalities in payment, the change in the family law and gender equality, the establishment of the national health system and the general improvement in the lives of the Greeks.

The criticism was followed by a flashback of the past few years when "PASOK took the burden of the crisis on its shoulders". Evangelos Venizelos expressed his gratitude to the members of the previous parliament for "their courage in supporting the much-needed changes".

Evangelos Venizelos made a new proposal to the Democratic Left to create "a centre-left majority coalition" and to jointly take part in the elections. He did not fail to note the party's refusal to participate in the work of the congress, saying, "I am surprised that the Democratic Left is considering it easier to cooperate with the government of New Democracy than to conduct a political dialogue with PASOK".

He said as regards New Democracy, "We are partners in the government but we do not share common values ​​and ideology".

PASOK’s leader called for unity and joint efforts for the reorganization of the party and for the emergence of Greece from the crisis. He urged the supporters of PASOK, who "abandoned the party in the elections in May and June last year" to return, saying, "We invite our people to return home" and added, "SYRIZA is not part of the centre-left political space".

The atmosphere outside and inside the hall, where the congress took place, was very lively from the beginning. The delegates gathered in small groups and talked about the present and the future of the party, which after years of political domination and leadership experience ended up fifth as regards the number of votes received in the last elections.

Many different positions are expected to be heard within the congress but it is not yet clear which will prevail. The debates of "the first congress in the new era of PASOK," as its leader Evangelos Venizelos called it will end on Sunday with a vote on the new members of the party bodies.

GRReporter talked with several delegates - representatives of different generations. The differences in their positions are indicative of the confusion that is the result of the turmoil in the party after the fall of George Papandreou’s government.

"This is our last chance as a party. PASOK is in its worst condition of the last 30 years. There is a great need for change and renewal. We expect to hear new things. We are all talking about a new beginning, but I do not expect much from this congress. However, we need to provide opportunities for young people to take initiatives.

The crisis has strongly affected certain categories of people in recent years. I think we should pay attention to them, to the employees in the private sector whom we have been ignoring for years, because the focus was on public workers. That is why I am here today. No longer are we in 1981 or 1985, the age is different and so, we have to change if we want PASOK to continue to be the face of the new social democracy," said Yiannis, aged 27.

Another man of his age, however, is of a completely different opinion. He thinks that PASOK should return to its roots, i.e. the leftist politics. "I think that if PASOK is to have a future, it must participate in a government with its most prominent members in order to impose its position or to withdraw completely from the cabinet. I disagree with the centre position, which states that we support the government with a vote of tolerance. As regards the issue of labour relations, for example, our head should offer radical proposals instead of acting like the tail of New Democracy".

In his opinion, PASOK has lost its ideology due to the long years of ruling.

Some of the older delegates simply remembered the dawn of the party. "PASOK is a big party. What we need to do is to bring the people back and restore PASOK’s former glory and power".

The future of PASOK depends on the decisions that we will take during these three days as stated by Nikos Stergiou, aged 56. "If we succeed in attracting by them the masses, which traditionally support the centre-left space and PASOK, yes, I do believe we have a future. If the decisions have nothing to do with that part of society, then it is over for PASOK. The party suffers from the lack of an active policy today. Another important issue is how to continue our participation in the government. Will we participate with political figures or will we just support it without taking an active part in it?"

His personal opinion is that the socialists should leave the government coalition. "We should support the government, but we should also criticize it".

According to the delegate, this is an absolute prerequisite for PASOK to be able to attract back its old supporters, "who were disappointed with our position and our mistakes".

Tags: PoliticsPASOKCongressIdeologyDemocratic leftCentre-left spaceDelegates
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