In the political trenches

By Alexis Papachelas

This year Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is operating more or less in the same way as he would if the country were at war.

He manages three to four crises per day, has no way of knowing from which direction the next will come and works unbelievably long hours.

His team of close aides naturally plays a pivotal role in all of this. Working with the kind of people who are capable of solving problems, people who can conduct themselves appropriately anywhere around the world and who at the end of the day are able to deliver something positive is of prime importance to the premier.

Clearly he also needs to have people close to him who are able to say, “No, this will not work,” or “This will not get through,” because they are useful as a kind of liaison with reality, beyond the Maximos Mansion bunkers.

He must beware, however, that he doesn’t start listening solely to what those people have to say because if he does, the next stage will be to reach a dead end and a state of inertia. That is a prime minister’s worst nightmare, especially for a premier who despises stagnation.

A crucial role is also played by those few ministers who take it upon themselves to solve particularly tough cases, politicians who defend the necessity of taking painful measures and who generally tend to disregard the idea of political cost. There are only a few of them in the current coalition government, but they are definitely more than those in previous administrations. They remain loyal to the prime minister and believe that it’s worth putting up a political fight.

Nevertheless, in politics, just as in battle, there is nothing worse than feeling unprotected and having to constantly keep an eye out to check if anyone is covering you or not. I suspect that’s how Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis felt about the 25-euro hospital admission fee and that similar thoughts will be crossing Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis’s mind if legislation regarding reforms recommended by the OECD ends up being solely about the sale of paper clips.

The prime minister is working under particularly difficult circumstances. Everyone realizes that. It is important, however, first of all for him to develop a different political agenda vis-a-vis the opposition and, secondly, to make sure that everyone understands the aims of the government for which he bears responsibility and at the same time has the honor to lead.

It is a well-known fact, of course, that life becomes unbearable for those who dare to make reforms, in contrast to history, which is always more positively inclined toward them.