Failed Former Greek Premier Papandreou Gets Harvard PostBy
ATHENS – If old soldiers never die but just fade away, it seems that politicians who lose office slide into college teaching positions. Former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, whose two-year reign ended ignominiously in 2011 when he was hounded out of office after constant protests, strikes and riots against austerity measures he imposed on the orders of international lenders, has landed on his feet with a position as a Visiting Fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics in Cambridge, Mass. His father, Andreas, the founder of the PASOK Socialist party and a former Prime Minister, was a Harvard-trained academic, as was his son.
Papandreou is also a Member of Parliament but didn’t say whether he would foregoe his salary while he is living in the United States and not attending sessions as a new government struggles to right the economy.
Papandreou, 60, was also graduated from Amherst College and held a number of positions in PASOK over the years, including Foreign Minister, before winning the 2009 elections with his party gaining 44 percent of the vote. His time in office was tumultuous as he went against PASOK’s Socialist principles to impose big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions, but failed to go after tax evaders costing the country $70 billion, worsening Greece’s recession that has led to 22.5 percent unemployment, an economy shrinking by 6.7 percent and with some 1,000 businesses a week closing.
By the time he left office he was one of the most unpopular politicians in Greece and later gave up the leadership of the party, which fell to 12.3 percent of the vote in the June 17 election which saw its dreaded rival, the New Democracy Conservatives – headed by his one-time Amherst roommate, Antonis Samaras – narrowly win, but without enough of the vote to form a government, leading to a coalition with PASOK and the Democratic Left.
Papandreou will begin teaching about government in the fall. Visiting fellows traditionally meet with student groups, lead discussion groups on topical issues and their experiences in public service, and participate in public policy classes with students and Harvard University faculty. It was not announced what areas Papandreou would cover, but his time in office sparked international attention and was a confluence of politics, business and social unrest, providing plenty of topics. He has often defended his much-criticized stance as being necessary to save Greece, although the austerity measures have backfired and left the country nearly destitute and relying on welfare aid from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which is putting up $325 billion in rescue monies.
The school named resident fellows as well, including former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle; John Carr, Executive Director for Justice, Peace and Human Development for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Nina Easton, senior editor and Washington columnist for Fortune magazine; public relations consultant Mark McKinnon; political consultant Brett O’Donnell and former White House Deputy Assistant to the President Sonal Shah.