Convergence reveals divergence
As Athens wept through the fumes of massive amounts of tear gas fired by police in the city center, Parliament voted through the second memorandum. Greece is saved, according to the assurances of Prime Minister George Papandreou and the ministers and parliamentarians of ruling PASOK – bar one, who dissented and was struck from the party. Greece is saved, according to some, despite the pigheadedness of the opposition, and now Greek citizens are free to plan their summer vacations. Papandreou and his number two, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, took turns in playing the revo- lutionary leader – a role that is very popular with most post-1974 politicians who see themselves as giving everything for the common good – and they even gave new meaning to the word “patriotism.” But it was not these machinations that got the reform program through Parliament. PASOK MPs voted for the second memorandum out of obedience to their leader and through a sense of party discipline. This reprehensible old-school behavior, found reproachable on a daily basis by well-known reformists, operated for Greece’s salvation and its reformist leap. However, because the privatizations will most likely not go ahead soon enough, because the tax collection mechanism will almost certainly fail to begin functioning properly, and because the recession will continue, there is a serious risk of social upheaval, of uncontrollable violence and loss of control, as yesterday’s events illustrated only too vividly. PASOK’s fate concerns no one except its members and officials. The interesting thing about yesterday’s vote is that the extreme-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) voted against the memorandum and Dora Bakoyannis of the Democratic Alliance and others who had rallied around her, voted “present.” No one really cares about the eccentric behavior of LAOS – it is a shallow, opportunistic party. But Bakoyannis was struck from New Democracy because she voted against the first memorandum and she is not known for her political cowardice. The essence of the matter is that the three parties representing the broader conservative camp showed a very similar response yesterday despite the fact that they hold distinctly different political positions and share a deep-seated antipathy for one another. It is ludicrous to even consider that they could ever share enough common ground to come together, but what this convergence did show was that PASOK’s cycle may well be coming to an end.