How will history judge George Papandreou?

Former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou will not only be remembered for having been in office during Greece’s worst economic crisis since the 1930s. He will be remembered as bold and decisive and unafraid to take unpopular positions, argues Elena Panaritis, a member of Greece’s parliament. Despite the dramatic circumstances of his departure, he succeeded as a leader. George Papandreou was confident enough to take risks like few politicians are. He wanted to convince his fellow Greeks of the need for additional austerity reforms and harsh new belt-tightening measures. That is an unusual stance for any social democrat to take, however he was willing to sacrifice his office to make sure that the right steps would be taken to get his country back on the road to economic recovery. He was confronted with a negative public reaction to his economic and public sector reforms. More over, while struggling to rescue a crippled economy at risk of collapsing, he faced rebellion from the opposition parties and resistance from within his own party. He took the country’s challenges and tried to develop a bipartisan vision but his conservative opponent refused. This is why his decision to resign should be taken as a sign of a rather audacious politician who did not think twice about sacrificing his position for the sake of his country. So how will Papandreou be judged by history? He will be judged as a leader of a country who had the audacity to make changes and solve problems that date back to the 1950s. He will be identified as a 21st-century leader — a man of vision — who had to fight partisan politics within his own party

and within the overall political system in Greece. Papandreou will also be remembered as the man who warned us about the economic crisis in Greece, across Europe and throughout the world. As a politician, he was confident enough to take risks. Few would have taken the risk of calling for a referendum. But convincing Greeks of the need for additional austerity reforms was Papandreou’s main concern wich it is not a mistake from the perspective that it represented an attempt at direct democracy. The problem was the timing. Since they were under so much pressure, it is certainly possible the Greeks would not have responded with a clear mind. The reasoning, surprising though it may have been for outsiders, was his intention to fix the severed relationship between the state and the Greek people. Just as Greece’s democracy has evolved over the centuries, Greece’s politicians also need to evolve. This is the only way to strengthen democracy. Not only do today’s politicians need to hear the public’s concerns, they also need to respond to the economy in order to withstand its shocks.

These being said, timing and speed is extremely important in today’s political arena. Politicians must always pay attention to the markets and stay one step ahead them to prevent catastrophe. This is not only true for Greece, but for the whole of Europe and the world. The politicians and the decision making process need to evolve to a new level where decisions are made rapidly and efficiently.