Greece Swings Left

October 12, 1993

The return of Andreas Papandreou fills European Community officialdom with dismay. Yet he cannot champion the Soviet bloc as he did in his last prime ministry of Greece: the bloc is not there. He will have a hard time supporting Middle Eastern terrorism: regimes dedicated to it are fewer, isolated and spotlighted. As for making trouble for Europe's newest nation, Macedonia, the ousted Constantine Mitsotakis was already doing that.

In winning Greece's election Sunday with 171 seats in the 300-member parliament, Mr. Papandreou and his Panhellenic Socialist Movement managed one of the great political comebacks. He was hooted from office after eight years in the 1989 election, incapacitated by open-heart surgery, mired in a messy divorce and affair with a young woman, implicated in monstrous corruption. Now he has bounced back at 74, far more vigorous on the campaign trail than his rival, remarried and exonerated of his regime's corruption.

But it was not Mr. Papandreou's personal vindication that motivated Greek voters. It was their despair and disgust with the responsible and austere economic policies of the Conservative government. What won Mr. Mitsotakis plaudits from EC colleagues, Washington and the International Monetary Fund got him the bum's rush from voters.

Mr. Papandreou promised a return to welfare socialism, without saying how it would be funded. But that is what attracted the electorate. So the Greek return of Socialists to power was something like the return to socialist sentiment in former Communist countries to the north, and notably the recent Polish election. It is nostalgia for economic security that was always illusory, and resentment at privations that are all too real.

Mr. Papandreou, a longtime American citizen and prominent economics professor, returns to power in a different Greece and world than he knew in the last decade. Rarely has a European election winner faced such openly hostile comment from the diplomats and officials of Europe, with whom he now must deal.

Mr. Papandreou had better produce on his promises. What he has learned about his countrymen is that they like to throw the rascals out.

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