By Diogenes Loppas

It seems that the unfortunate deterioration of Ms. Fofi Gennimata’s health (let’s all hope she gets well soon) is increasingly resembling the infamous “Beijing butterfly”, causing a chain of unexpected upheavals in our political system. The responsible attitude of the Movement for Change (KINAL) leader seems even braver in the light of her given victory in the upcoming party elections:

Those well-versed in KINAL’s internal relations know beyond any doubt that Ms. Gennimata would be the undisputed winner of the election, most likely even from the first round. In fact, this certainty seemingly satisfied both the governing party and the official opposition, since the president of KINAL was quite predictable and relatively harmless, as her potential seemed to be exhausted in the decent percentages of the last election. Thus, under certain conditions, they could both count on her to be a potential coalition government partner.

Gennimata’s early withdrawal from the leadership race brought up a considerable existential danger for the historic movement, namely the possible election, with the help of well-known oligarchs, of Mr. Loverdos as president, which would entail the complete annihilation of what was spared by the most unsuccessful politician in modern Greek history, who shrank a governing party by 40% (!!!), presenting the world dictionary with a new word: Pasokization.

This considerable possibility awakened dormant nuclei of the historical social democratic movement and mobilized the only remaining gatekeeper of progressive governance. Mr. Papandreou seems to have risen from his “political grave” and is preparing for a triumphant comeback or for a last heroic exodus, that will either restore PASOK to its natural powerful position or, like a postmodern “kamikaze”, will fly the burning carcass of the historic movement right into the center of the progressive faction, blowing them both to pieces; but this is something that time will (soon) tell.

In today’s grim reality, facts are clear and predictions are quite safe: First of all, no other candidate stands any chance against the “rampant” George A. Papandreou, and, secondly, the fate of this whole endeavour is in the hands of… Mr. Tsipras – and I will explain immediately why.

During this leadership race, Mr. Papandreou will have many and good opportunities, but he will also face many serious obstacles, the greatest of them being the explicit and coordinated attack by both government and opposition-affiliated media outlets, at the same time. It is evident that from now on, in the absence of Ms. Gennimata, the favourite candidate (for different reasons) of both New Democracy and SYRIZA is Mr. Loverdos. In the Maximos Mansion, Mr. Loverdos is considered a reliable coalition government partner, who is “toxically” anti-SYRIZA and is ideologically identified with the Mitsotakis system. In the Koumoundourou headquarters, they expect (and rightfully so) that Mr. Loverdos will shrink the electoral percentages of PASOK, thus giving vital space to the Progressive Alliance and conclusively clearing up any current ambiguity surrounding the exact political position of the party.

On the contrary, the forthcoming election victory of G.A.P. throws the government into a panic, since KINAL’s position will consequently shift to the left, alarmingly coinciding with that of SYRIZA-PA, which may cause an upheaval in a number of key assumptions of today, affecting media outlets, pro-Mitsotakis journalists and even close associates of the prime minister, who will begin to wonder whether they are on the right side of history. Respectively, the official opposition has sounded the alarm, as the victory of G. Papandreou would create a directly competitive political power with clear socialist origins that, under certain conditions, could actually threaten Mr. Tsipras’s “imperium” right at the heart of the center-left, a side of the political spectrum which, as we all know and admit, has elected a lot of prime ministers in Greece.

George Papandreou – a “hostage” of SYRIZA-PA

Whether the course of Mr. Papandreou will resemble a rocket launch or a comet passing through the atmosphere, depends solely on Mr. Tsipras’ dispositions. At the moment, there is no other person in the wider center-left who could threaten the charismatic public presence of the leader of the progressive alliance. Nevertheless, in no way does this mean that the electorate would give him a blank cheque. And if until today, with the spiritless and hesitant attitude of the outgoing president of KINAL, the progressive alliance could remain indifferent to its possible transformation into a governing social democratic faction, the emergence of a personality who has all the virtues that people would like to see in Mr. Tsipras, but Mr. Tsipras refuses to embody, is potentially causing great political upheaval.

To put it simply, the average progressive voter demands not only specific policies of modern European social democracy that would cancel out the backward deregulations of “Mitsotakism”, but also specific individuals who will carry said policies out: Individuals that have an earnest and “fresh” public presence, are experienced in political management and are above suspicion in the area of money management. Thus, if progressive voters continue to watch the unfolding political “autism” of SYRIZA and the prevalence of the outdated “professional leftist” caricature, either in the face of the “tough” Cretan politician, or in the worn-out mechanisms of the “3% era”, it is more than likely that they will be fascinated by the dozens of influential people that Mr. Papandreou will definitely gather around him, if he is elected president of KINAL. And, of course, we must not forget that former prime minister G. Papandreou is very strong in the area of communication, having a staff and connections equal, if not superior, to those of the Mitsotakis system, which could eventually crush SYRIZA, which stubbornly refuses to evolve between the two parties of a newly emerging two-party system.

Thus, the future of the progressive faction is entirely in the hands of Mr. Tsipras: If he finally proceeds to do what the progressive electorate has been pushing for, namely putting aside extremist and time-worn individuals and building a modern political governance program, which will be implemented by executives with the virtues mentioned above, then Papandreou’s endeavour will have absolutely no luck, as the sins of the past that he carries will prevail and the voters will turn en masse to the obvious and the immediately feasible, under the guidance of a leader already tested in hard circumstances.

However, if Mr. Tsipras once again ignores the majority and gets caught up in futile internal party strifes, trying to balance as first among equals between “bridges”, “umbrellas”, factions, and other pointless things, the train will not wait for him forever, since not only does the dystopian daily life imposed by the government begin to become unbearable, especially following the end of the pandemic, but also the respective political package that will be offered by the multi-experienced G.A.P. may have a nicer wrapping and a more serious representation, and be more oriented towards the center, which means greater potential to win the elections.

George Papandreou – the “scapegoat” of the crisis

Virtually all the journalist pens, coming from all sides of the political spectrum, myself included, love to hate Mr. Papandreou for his performance during the short but critical period that determined the fate of the country. Without the intention to idealize anything, but also without the weight of any payroll that would force me to gracefully slander the former prime minister, I tried to do my self-criticism and, having the extra knowledge of more than a decade, to soberly approach again his deeds and especially his critical choices, for which he is vilified by all sides.

The money is there!

Whoever, intentionally or not, isolates this legendary phrase from its context, blatantly wrongs the then-president of PASOK. If my memory serves me right, after “the money is there” followed the phrase “for the banks”. In essence, the then-leader of the official opposition criticized the ease with which the Karamanlis government, with an already monstrous deficit on its back, sacrificed valuable liquidity in (as it turned out) black hole of the banks, instead of allocating this money to the real economy which was critically in need of liquidity and consequently deprived the state of much-needed revenue, further deepening the debt and the deficit. If we want to be honest, the phrase may indeed belong to Mr. Papandreou, but the essence of the phrase belongs entirely to the Karamanlis government and even more so to the current government, which received serious liquidity, surplus, and a manageable debt to GDP ratio, but managed to turn them into alarming deficit, problematic liquidity and a nightmarish debt at 200% of GDP.

IMF – Memorandum

As is well known, Mr. Papandreou is not one of the populist politicians (anti-memorandum Samaras, Mitsotakis against the Prespa Agreement, Tsipras during his first 6-month term, etc), so he was well-aware of the fact that his choices were very limited, especially at a time when the EU had no rescue mechanism. So, having – in retrospect – knowledge of Samaras’ 180-degree turn and then of the nationally disastrous swap of Papadimos – Venizelos, but also of the more sober second government of A. Tsipras, could the choice of G.A.P. actually have been a one-way street? And if not, what was the real alternative? Leaving the Eurozone and ordering a debt moratorium?

Referendum

Being a leftist and a proven democrat, refusing to bear the burden of such an unbearable decision and resorting to a diplomatic maneuver, he decided at the historic EU summit in Nice (with Sarkozy on the table and while being incredibly pressured by the ruthless Germans) to call a referendum, through which he hoped to win by losing. In other words, he would obviously say “yes” as a Europeanist, but the voters would say “no” and then he would resort to elections or resign. We never actually found out, as his government was overthrown instantly by a “coup” of Mr. Venizelos. In his on-camera statements about two hours after the announcement of the referendum, Mr. Venizelos de facto annulled the prime minister’s announcements and then, as an apostate, overthrew the government and eventually became minister of a ruthless right-wing government and turned PASOK into a fossil of history.

KIDISO

After losing the presidency and the management of PASOK, he suddenly found himself in a distorted and disintegrating political formation that co-governed with the most toxic right-wing faction that the country had known until then. If he remained in the safety of his party, he would be forced to consent to disastrous policies for both the citizens and the country. He chose to distance himself from this process and was consequently accused of treason, “patricide”, apostasy and whatnot. At the same time, he systematically avoided easy anti-memorandum populism and, while in the opposition, was perhaps the first left-wing politician to insist on an honest compromise with the EU, which was finally achieved after six disastrous years, either of right-wing fanaticism at the limits of treason, or of left-wing fundamentalist anti-Europeanism, culminating in Varoufakis’ “wow” and the capital controls. Did history eventually vindicate his choice to leave this hybrid PASOK?

I remain highly skeptical of Mr. Papandreou’s intentions and I would not like the above statements to be perceived as support or as an attempt of idealization. But I sincerely believe that as a society we owe at least an honest review of what happened, with the wisdom of the twelve years that have passed since. After all, I still want to believe that the progressive faction will dare to take the great step, cross the Rubicon of the blind leftism and advance into the fertile valleys of European social democracy. And I firmly believe that this fateful politician will be the catalyst, as his reappearance in the central political scene will force the official opposition to move faster, more decisively, and, most importantly, more boldly.