The unemployed and the uninsured are always the first to come to mind when thinking about who the greatest victims of the economic crisis are. That said, four years after the country came under strict international supervision, we are beginning to realize that the political damage has also been extensive. Crucially, the prestige of the country’s institutions has been badly hit as their once distinct powers ebb and ultimately become subordinate to the executive powers.
Parliament and justice are the big losers of the crisis in this respect.
A few days ago, the president of the Council of State, Sotiris A. Rizos, suggested in his summer communique addressed to judges and other officials that there is an ongoing campaign to undermine justice in the media following rulings deeming the cuts in the salaries and pensions of judges and members of the armed forces unconstitutional.
“Propaganda is being exercised in an organized fashion and could potentially harm the free judgment of judges and eventually cause irreversible damage to the judicial activity of the courts and clearly reduce and weaken citizens’ legitimate claim for protection by the law,” he said.
These are very serious claims and should be cause for grave concern, especially coming from the president of the country’s highest administrative court. Meanwhile citizens, who have been devastated by the crisis, cannot help but wonder what kind of protection the Council of State has afforded them from a succession of tax hikes and extraordinary levies or from horizontal cuts to salaries, pensions and benefits. They feel that the court only came to the rescue when the salaries and pensions of judicial officials were affected by the spending cuts.
The damage that has been suffered by the Greek Parliament is even greater. Draft laws of crucial significance are being hastily voted through without any real debate or discussion as to how they can be improved, and often containing amendments slipped in at the last minute, often to the chagrin of deputies who voted them through.
We are also seeing disciplinary investigations into the conduct of ministers being postponed over and over again with the intent of creating delays.
All of these factors harm the legislative body and, worse than that, they feed the prevailing mistrust of society toward politicians, politics and the institutions of democracy. We shouldn’t be surprised, therefore, that the fascists are continuing to gain popularity even with their leadership in jail.