ATHENS (Reuters) – To pull Greece out of a fiscal crisis that has shaken the European Union, Prime Minister George Papandreou will have to overturn part of his free-spending late father’s political legacy.
“He is very aware that history is making him commit an act of ideological and political patricide,” said a friend of the U.S.-educated Socialist leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the confidentiality of their conversations.
Andreas Papandreou, a firebrand leftist who governed in 1981-89 and again in 1993-96, transformed the country helped by European Union funds. He expanded the civil service and state healthcare, promoted secularism and restored national pride.
But today’s debt-burdened Greece urgently needs to shrink the public sector, curb public spending, clean up corruption and tax evasion, and open swathes of the economy that are shuttered by clientelism, notably of Papandreou’s PASOK party.
The prime minister’s closest advisers, including his brother Nicholas, dismiss talk in Athens that George Papandreou is a latter-day “Oedipus Rex,” doomed like the king in Sophocles’ classical drama to kill his father.