The establishment of a monarch-free democracy was hailed as one of the biggest achievements of the Metapolitefsi era in Greece. It is argued that by changing the regime, the root of evil was removed, staving off the kind of national crises and dramas caused by crown intervention. We won’t argue the point: We are in a crisis right now, so enough said.
But, while the “system” is supposed to have solved its problems, in the past few weeks – and especially after May’s elections for local government and European government – it has been observed that a political exchange is in the offing, aimed at ensuring a majority of 180 deputies in the 300-seat House so that a new president can be elected by the present Parliament at some point before spring. The objective of this opaque process – which is being condemned by various parties, in varying tones – is to ensure the survival of the government through 2015 and until the end of its four-year term. If the government does manage to survive into the first few months of next year, it will have achieved a great feat indeed given the circumstances. Of course neither SYRIZA nor any other party can trigger early elections, especially since the victory claimed by the main opposition party in May’s polls was not really overwhelming at all.
The fact of the matter is that the post of president, so fervently championed by the political class of the Metapolitefsi, has become subject to manipulation by the political parties and their leaders and the result is that it is simply no longer attractive. Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis said that he was not interested in being nominated some time ago. Former Prime Minister and New Democracy President Costas Karamanlis, whose name has been heard recently, is clearly not interested either.
As we are obviously not suggesting a return to a monarchy, it is high time that the pillars of the institution of the presidency start supporting it rather than undermining it. On a practical level it makes no sense whatsoever that such a large majority is required in Parliament to elect a new president – 151 votes are enough. Bipartisanship is not ensured by inflated majorities.
The problem, however, is not found on an institutional level but in the twisted mentality that pervades Greek political life. It was the behavior of our political leaders that undermined the monarchy and is today constantly undercutting the role of the presidency.
There is nothing surprising about this of course. When it comes to self-preservation, Greek political leaders – with some exceptions – will stop at nothing. They lament the constitution, its institutions and even the party they lead when faced with reactions. They are, in effect, tribal chiefs.