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From Father To Son, PASOK Celebrates its 37th Birthday

In 1974, a couple of months before the colonels’ junta collapsed, current Prime Minister’s father, Andreas Papandreou, left Toronto and returned home, in order to create the Pan-Hellenic So-cialist Movement, known as Pasok. Andrea’s political “child” had a a tint of Marxism mixed with a nationalist and socialist agenda. Thirty seven years on, Andreas son has taken over his dad’s business (family-run businesses are very popular in Greece) but he is paying for his father’s sins and is forced to apply policies that can hardly be perceived as socialistic. From salary cuts to increasing souvlaki’s VAT to 23% PASOK has long forgotten its socialistic roots and as a result, saw its popularity wane. Three opinion polls published in Sunday newspapers showed that PASOK’s main conservative opposition New Democracy party had widened its lead.  So what went wrong for the party that has won six of the nine elections since 1981?
Andreas brings change
On August 16, 1974 Andreas Papandreou‘s plane arrives at the old airport in Elliniko. Wearing a black leather jacket and sporting the sideburns trend, the charismatic academic, with almost zero governmental experience, had came to bring change. His supporters shouted numerous slogans, also referring to Andrea’s father, the (old man of Democracy), Georgios Papandreou-current prime minister’s namesake grandfather also a Greek prime minister- urging him to raise from the dead in order to see his son (σήκω Γέρο για να δεις το παιδί της αλλαγής!). Andrea’s popularity rallied. By 1981, his leftist ideological rhetoric and political Utopia, had diminished the Conservative Party’s leader and Greece’s prime minister Konstantinos Karamanlis-his direct right wing antipodes- who foreseeing his defeat quits and moves on to Greek democracy’s presidency. Andreas wins a crushing general election victory with 48% and his supporters go ballistic
He was determined to make big social reforms that would change Greeks’ quality of life after years of starvation and war. He creates ESY (Greek National Health-care System), he boosts the welfare system, healing of the wounds of the German invasion and the Greek civil war which enabled thousands of ex-communists and rebels to gain pensions. He upgrades forgotten rural countries by creating schools and medical centers. From sheep farmers on the rocky slopes of Crete to fishermen in Cyclades, the Greek underclass voted for him massively. And why wouldn’t they? He was the first to pay attention to ordinary Greeks like them. Pasok workers had visited the farmers in villages and islands that men of power in Athens had always ignored.
The fall out
But then spending went out of control. Despite the fact that at first he fiercely opposed to the European Union, Andreas kept Greece in the club and started milking it of money. Instead of investing the European packages, he hired thousands and thousands of civil servants in the already over-bloated public sector only based on “rousfeti” (Turkish word for reciprocal dispensation of favours). He even “hires” his son (current prime minister) in his cabinet. He nationalized failing companies, increased government handouts of every shape and form. He allowed female civil servants to retire at thirty five and granted tens of thousands of disability benefits to perfectly healthy people (there still are Cretan villages where 98% of the population is either blind or handicapped). Famous “Delor’s packages” kept pooring money for Greek rural areas to develop, funding non-existent cultivations and the same five sheep the villagers kept moving around the village  so that inspectors would give them the valuable  “επιδότηση” while Andrea’s Minister of Finance Dimitris Tsovolas, becomes the most recognisable slogan of the eighties “Τσοβόλα δώστα όλα!”(Tsovolas give us everything).
“Dirty ’89”
A plump man with steady dark eyes, George Koskotas, was the reason Andreas Papandreou fell off power, was taken to court and one of his Ministers had a heart attack and died during the trial- live on national television.The Koskotas scandal revealed a government riddled by extortion and criminality. The press claimed that Bank of Crete sponsored PASOK and the missing dollars were actually payoffs that went directly to PASOK officials. Andreas was also accused of using Koskota’s publishing empire to manipulate public opinion. Hilarious stories about suitcases full of cash coming back and fourth the Maximos Mansion were catching headlines on a daily basis.
Back at his seat 
However being dragged to court, however all the bad press on his inner court of cronies corruption, however marring  a rather controversial-some say vulgar- blond flight-attendant half his age, Greek people brought Andreas right back where he was. In 1993, Mr Papandreou led his party yet again to victory with an extraordinary 47% of the vote. But his body couldn’t take the heat and he was now on  life-support machines. Andreas remained leader of Pasok until his death and only surrendered the prime-minister-ship a few months before he passed away.
The Simitis era
Compared to his populist predecessor,  Mr Simitis seemed like a more low-key, modern-minded prime minister. Greeks perceived him as the leader who would finally turn Greece into a European country and he did-at least on the surface. Simitis certainly lacked Andrea’s rhetoric-he was actually nicknamed “the book-keeper” for boring audiences with statistics- but within his first four years of governance Greek economy revived so perkily that Greece joined the Euro-zone. Simitis was also the man who prepared Athens 2004 Olympic Games major projects.
Greeks were proud to have entered the euro and for pulling off the Olympic Games bet-despite widespread skepticism. But while both his accomplishments- entering the Eurozone and organizing the Games, gave a morale boost to Greeks’ ego- a couple of years later, the “Simitis bubble” was brutally burst both for his European counterparts and the Greek people. Turn’s out that “book keeper’s” statistics -based on which Greece entered the euro-zone-were all fake, as was the revival  of the Greek economy which was basically the result of overpriced Olympic Games where Greece won-yet again- the gold medal for overspending borrowed money.
Papandreou The Third
After an admittedly disastrous PASOK-governance-brake,  Papandreou The Third swept into power, as Karamanlis The Second hoped of the sinking boat. Trim, fit and elegant, the American born Greek Prime minister is often getting mocked by the Greek press for his small grammatical errors and for his unrealistic visions such as wanting to turn Greece into the Sweden of the Mediterranean!
In an agonising attempt to save Greece from bankruptcy, Papandreou Jr is trying to explain to Greek people why he pushes all those unpopular reforms, blaming  political parties for promising government jobs, social security perks and overspending-conveniently forgetting that it was his party governing the country for most of the time after 1981. And it is his own “comrades” that fight him the most: the old PASOK guard who’s still hooked on his father’s enduring myth limiting the current office holder’s room for manoeuvre. Ant they prove to be harder to convince -even more than his once close friend and dorm-mate at Amherst College in Massachusetts, current New Democracy leader, Antonis Samaras.

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