Self­ish pol­i­tics

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem is, un­for­tu­nately, too im­ma­ture and it re­mains to be seen whether it will man­age to ma­ture in time to avert a break­down and bank­ruptcy. The way the two main­stream party lead­ers went about dis­cussing the prospect of a unity gov­ern­ment left a lot to be de­sired. Ne­go­ti­a­tions and talks on that level re­quire prepa­ra­tion, dis­cre­tion and re­spon­si­bil­ity. This is what peo­ple ex­pect of Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou, An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras and the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem. In­stead, the two ri­vals fought like stu­dents in a school pres­i­den­tial race. Few peo­ple seem to re­al­ize the ex­tent of the dam­age caused by this un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent at home and abroad. At home, be­cause the pub­lic has been thrown into con­fu­sion by a prime min­is­ter who first says that he will hold a pop­u­lar ref­er­en­dum, who then agrees to form a gov­ern­ment with­out him at the helm, be­fore fi­nally reshuf­fling the Cabi­net (an over­sized cabi­net de­signed to pre­serve the in-party equi­lib­rium). Mean­while, peo­ple are con­cerned be­cause, al­though they may agree with some of his pol­icy pro­pos­als, they de­test his 1980s-style pop­ulist lan­guage and don’t quite un­der­stand how he plans to rule the coun­try. Whether we like it or not, it is also im­por­tant to know how out­siders view re­cent de­vel­op­ments. And, the truth is, they are fed up. A fum­ing JeanClaude Trichet, pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank, is ask­ing, “Why can Greek politi­cians not be­have like their Por­tuguese coun­ter­parts?” Para­dox­i­cally, Greece’s short­com­ings are prov­ing to be a strong bar­gain­ing chip. No one out there wants to see the Greek econ­omy col­lapse, so they are do­ing all they can to save Greece from bank­ruptcy so that we don’t pose a threat to the sys­tem. Go­ing back to the new gov­ern­ment, the ques­tion of course is, can it suc­ceed? It will prob­a­bly man­age to pass the lat­est bunch of mea­sures, to guar­an­tee PASOK’s sur­vival and pos­si­bly en­sure a new bailout loan. This is no mean task. How­ever, even if the gov­ern­ment can pass the new mea­sures in Par­lia­ment, it is far from cer­tain that it can im­ple­ment them. The tech­no­cratic cre­den­tials of Evan­ge­los Venize­los, the newly ap­pointed fi­nance min­is­ter, are ques­tion­able. But he is smart and flex­i­ble enough to re­cruit the right peo­ple for the job, and he also has the po­lit­i­cal weight to make his fel­low min­is­ters ex­e­cute the de­mands of the new mem­o­ran­dum signed with the coun­try’s for­eign len­ders. Of course, at some time the gov­ern­ment will have to clash with PASOK’s old guard – and then the ad­min­is­tra­tion will have to pick one of two paths: ei­ther the path of com­pro­mise, which has so of­ten proved dis­as­trous in the past, or the path of con­fronta­tion with the union­ists and So­cial­ist party back­benchers. That will be a huge wa­ger for Venize­los, who has never had to de­fend or im­ple­ment an un­pop­u­lar pol­icy. He knows that should he pull this off, he should com­fort­ably be­come PASOK’s next chair­man. If he fails, he will have to share the cost of fail­ure. He has ev­ery rea­son to do his best. The gov­ern­ment will prob­a­bly sur­vive the next ob­sta­cle. But the coun­try is un­likely to make it to the one af­ter that with­out a cross-party agree­ment on the most burn­ing is­sues. Non­par­ti­san ex­perts must be talked into en­gag­ing with the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the trou­bled coun­try. The prospect of cross-party con­sen­sus has been wrecked, un­til the next disas­ter knocks on our door, I am afraid. The ex­ist­ing po­lit­i­cal staff is strug­gling to prove it can pull this off in the clas­sic po­lit­i­cal way, as it were. If they fail, they will go down, along with the rest of the coun­try.

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