Greece in Europe's main stream Simitis re-election: Prime minister leads Socialists to the moderate center.


THE PANHELLENIC Socialist Party was founded by the late Andreas Papandreou and was long indistinguishable from his quirks, peeves, prejudices and eccentricities. But as he lay dying last January, Costas Simitis replaced him as prime minister of Greece and ended the anti-Western, anti-U.S. and statist biases and the flirtation with Islamist terrorists. Mr. Simitis is running a down-sized, moderate and mainstream social democratic government that seeks to live up to its membership in the European Union.

Mr. Simitis has now led Pasok, as his party is called, to triumphant re-election over its conservative rivals in the New Democracy Party. This is less a victory over Miltiades Evert, who promptly resigned as New Democracy leader, than over the ghost of Mr. Papandreou, which had been haunting Greek politics. For that matter, Mr. Simitis also triumphed over a small party that had splintered off his own as no longer being left enough.

Mr. Simitis is vindicated by the electorate in making Pasok a true institution of the center-left and bigger than any individual, including its founder. What the Turkish press and the U.S. government like about Mr. Simitis, his moderation and JTC reasonableness in foreign policy, the Greek voters also like about him.

With a four-year mandate, the Simitis government can be expected to continue privatization and budget deficit reduction, and to seek resolution of disputes with Turkey through World Court mediation. Lacking total confidence in that, however, it will also pursue rearmament, though without any hope of matching Turkey's greater strength.

Mr. Simitis has been making Greece less "Greek" in exaggerated nationalism, and more "European" in the sense of prosperous and internationalist. That, it turns out, is the way most Greeks want it.

Pub Date: 9/26/96

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