Cheap tricks over con­sen­sus

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY STAVROS LYGEROS

We’ve seen it all be­fore: Prior to Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou, the banner of con­sen­sus had been raised by Costas Kara­manalis and be­fore that by Costas Simi­tis. We know that when the go­ing starts get­ting very tough for a prime min­is­ter he tries to put part of the blame – and, by ex­ten­sion, the po­lit­i­cal cost – on the op­po­si­tion. This is al­ways done with a call for con­sen­sus in the knowl­edge that to the ears of the pub­lic – tired and fed up with po­lit­i­cal squab­bling – it sounds like such a pos­i­tive thing. In a democ­racy, the roles played by the gov­ern­ment and the op­po­si­tion par­ties are clear and spe­cific. Ob­vi­ously an at­mos­phere of con­sen­sus is achieved when the par­ties con­verge on a cer­tain point or sub­ject. On other sub­jects there should be some de­gree of con­flict, which as a rule is more use­ful than con­sen­sus in the long run, first and fore­most be­cause it pre­serves an in­sti­tu­tional sys­tem of accountability for the rul­ing party. The sec­ond rea­son why dis­agree­ment can be more fruit­ful than agree­ment is that it can gen­er­ate new al­ter­na­tives that al­low vot­ers to com­pare party poli­cies. In other words, throw­ing ev­ery­thing to­gether, cast­ing aside the dif­fer­ences be­tween par­ties in the name of con­sen­sus can be just as bad as con­stant fight­ing and squab­bling. The gov­ern­ment raised the tone of its de­mand for con­sen­sus when rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the eu­ro­zone sug­gested that New Democ­racy’s stance would in part de­ter­mine whether Greece would get the next tranche of its bailout loan. The state­ments by JeanClaude Juncker and Olli Rehn were a se­ri­ously anti-demo­cratic slip, even if it is true that the idea orig­i­nally be­longed to Greek Fi­nance Min­is­ter Gior­gos Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou. Brus­sels was an­noyed by An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras’s stance but it knows that it has no right to dic­tate what the op­po­si­tion says. How­ever, the fact is that ND has not stopped the gov­ern­ment from im­ple­ment­ing its pro­gram; the blame lies with the Greek gov­ern­ment and with the recipe for re­cov­ery out­lined in the mem­o­ran­dum. The ar­gu­ment that the pro­gram will con­tinue af­ter the cur­rent gov­ern­ment’s term and there­fore should be sup­ported by the op­po­si­tion as well is flimsy, be­cause the gov­ern­ment sig­na­ture on the mem­o­ran­dum is a pledge from the coun­try, and, any­way, Sa­ma­ras has said that he will honor it. The gov­ern­ment harp­ing on about con­sen­sus is aimed at ei­ther neu­tral­iz­ing New Democ­racy po­lit­i­cally, get­ting it to ad­mit that agrees with the mem­o­ran­dum, or set­ting it up to take the heat if the plan fails. Ei­ther way, these are all cheap tricks.

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