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Calmer Seas for Greece?

Andreas Papandreou’s victory in the Greek national elections is as extraordinary as its meaning is obscure. The Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement, PASOK, that he leads maintained a substantial if reduced majority in the parliament. New Democracy, the principal opposition party, posted significant gains, narrowing the gap to five percentage points, while the communist parties showed declining results, perhaps because some of their members shifted to support Papandreou.

The prime minister called this “a triumph for the forces of change, progress and modernization” without saying what it might mean in terms of foreign policy. Earlier, however, he had forecast that his reelection would assure “calmer seas” after four years of turbulence in his country’s foreign relations.

Greek voters seem to have been most impressed by his promise of expanded welfare despite a performance in his first term that left the nation with inflation of 18% and unemployment of more than 10%. It is not easy to measure the importance in the election of Papandreou’s foreign-policy statements. A large number of Greek voters never seem to tire of being diverted from the failure of domestic policies by blazing attacks on the United States, Turkey, the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus, the Common Market and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

A critical unanswered question now is how beholden the prime minister will feel to the KKE, the pro-Moscow communist party whose members apparently voted in large numbers for PASOK in the face of forecasts that New Democracy might win the day. The clear majority of seats in parliament that PASOK won may still be mortgaged to a claim by communists that they provided the victory margin.

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For Greece’s old friends and allies, the United States and the European Economic Community, there is little to do but be patient and hope that the “calmer seas” do indeed prevail.


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