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My Big Fat Greek Week: PASOK VS PASOK

There is an old saying that whenever there's any kind of election in Greece, it doesn't matter who you vote for, in the end it is PASOK that wins

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17 November 2017

- The so-called 'socialist' party that pretty much ruled the country from 1981, when Andreas Papandreou rose to power, up until the country's collapse in 2010, in the hands of his son, George Papandreou, with brief intervals for scandals, impeachments, a short-lived coalition government, a three-year Nea Dimokratia parenthesis under Konstantinos Mitsotakis and another ND government, under Kostas Karamanlis, which lasted a remarkable five years.

- That is because Karamanlis campaigned and ruled as a Papandreou copycat, ripping pages from his book and pasting them to the ND program.

- But PASOK remains alive, despite seeing its populartity diminished, since the country's default, when it was punished by the voters - not so much for creating the vicious circle of corruption and extreme spending that led to the collapse, but because it went to the IMF, asking for the country's rescue, which led to further deepening the crisis and resulted to what is happening now.

- Even then, PASOK managed to govern, alongside Nea Dimokratia, before SYRIZA's 2015 elections win.

- SYRIZA, of course, has since out-pasoked PASOK, its leader, Alexis Tsipras, being under daily transformation to a Papandreou clone, copying him to the t - even his tone of voice, when he speaks in public is an Andreas imitation.

- So no, whatever you do, you cannot escape PASOK. Because it's not a party. It's a state of mind, deeply rooted whithin the Greek voter mindset.

- This was never more apparent last Sunday, when more than 200,000 people in Greece went to the polls to vote for a new leader of the new centre-left party (under construction), which will absorb what's left of PASOK, the Democratic Left (an offspring of SYRIZA), the River and other minor centrist parties.

- Ten contenders went for the title of the leader - with most of the Greek media (and the Opposition party) supporting Athens Mayor George Kaminis for the role - but in the end, it was Fofi Gennimata, the current leader of PASOK (and the Democratic Alliance) who won.

- Polls were even held in Australia; 85 people voted in Sydney and 52 in Melbourne. Gennimata got 64 and 33 of the votes, respectively.

- It is yet unclear if the Greek-Australians eager to resurrect the motherland's Centre-left party will vote for the second round, in which Gennimata will face PASOK's rising star, Nikos Androulakis.

- What is clear though, is that yet another movement, led by academics, intellectuals, journalists and former high-profile ministers (and a mayor), was hijacked by the party base, which still has a quasi-religious devotion to PASOK.

- It is not a coincidence that, out of the 200,000 voters who went to the polls, 60 percent were older than 55.

- They are the ones who remember the 'golden days', when Andreas brought the disenfranchised to the foreground and gave them all a decent wage, social security, a 40-hour work week - and a job at the public sector.

- So it is natural that this quest for a new Centre-left leader that would take up on SYRIZA resulted to a family rift between two factions of PASOK.

- Gennimata, herself the daughter of one of the Party's most beloved and respected members, Giorgos Gennimatas, who all but single-handedly created a National Health System for the country, is seen as a torch-bearer, the one carrying the party's legacy (and has received a nod from the natural party heir, George Papandreou).

- Androulakis, on the other hand, is believed to be mentored by Evangelos Venizelos, hence gaining the reluctant support of the Simitis-era "modernizers" nostalgics.

- Whoever wins, will have a difficult task ahead.

- For one, to offer at least one idea of government, one policy announcement, to say what this 'new' (old) party stands for.

- Because as of yet, nothing has been said.

- The next elections are not close, and a lot can happen in between, but it is pretty safe to assume that this party will not manage to rise above third place (at best).

- Which means, that it will, in most probability, get to enter a coalition government.

- Will it be a coalition government under Tsipras or under Mitsotakis?

- This again remains unclear.

- The first option would mean that they concede to Tsipras 'stealing' the original PASOK style (and basically acknowledging SYRIZA as a bona fide, Greek-Style, Centre-Left party).

- The latter would be an unholy alliance with the heir of their arch-nemesis.

- In the meantime, Tsipras did a Papandreou and promised a €1.4 bn handout to 3.4 million struggling Greeks, redistributing the revenue accumulated through heavy taxation and cuts on spending.

- But before he got to gloat on this, reality hit hard, when 15 died due to problems created by floods and heavy rain.

- The government was under fire, for failing to take any anti-flooding measures, as it failed to take any anti-fire measures, which resulted to forrest areas being burned down, which in its turn resulted to heavy rain water not being contained.

- It is a common secret that any measures taken during the past seven years, have been far from adequate, due to budget cuts.

- So this is what harsh austerity does to a country.

- But yes, let's talk about the legacy of the Centre-left in Greece.

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