Political farce

By Costas Iordanidis

On Wednesday we saw a political farce of the first degree.

A surprised public, at home and abroad, was at first informed that Greece?s Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou -- obviously devastated by the bankruptcy of his political and economic policy decisions -- agreed to step down from office and join forces with conservative leader Antonis Samaras for the formation of a unity coalition government.

Papandreou, reports said, even agreed that the new prime minister would be picked by both sides.

A few hours later, Papandreou backed down from his earlier commitment on the grounds that Samaras treated the prospect of cooperation between the two mainstream parties as a public relations stunt. The head of PASOK went on to announce a government reshuffle for today.

The status of Greece?s political system has suffered irreparable damage as a result.

The country?s credibility in the European Union has been tarnished. Greek citizens are simply waiting to see the consequences of this amateurish -- some people would say criminal -- management of the current crisis, and of the nation?s future. Some might be tempted to instead put the blame on Samaras and his opposition conservatives. The premier, after all, has already chosen to do so. But, whether we like it or not, in a representative system like the one we have here, political power is exerted by the government in charge.

The country is not run by the opposition, the masses, the unions, the business community or by the pundits. Papandreou has failed us miserably -- and the price of this failure is to be paid by all people across party lines.

True to character, Papandreou on Wednesday acted in a highly unconventional manner that resulted in chaos. Sure, his intentions might have been good. It seems certain that his contacts with Samaras were made without prior consultation with his close aides.

A ?deal? with the New Democracy leader would involve a ?renegotiation? of the first and second memorandum -- and that was perhaps not accepted by some of Greece?s international peers.

A tragic Papandreou on Wednesday transformed himself from politician into a fatal hero.