Turkey, a country branded by some as undemocratic and maladjusted by European standards, recently elected a new president – Recep Tayyip Erdogan – in a vote that was transparent and with a clear result.
Eminently democratic Greece, in contrast, is sinking deeper into the quagmire of political give-and-take over who will be chosen to run as president in order to prevent the possible dissolution of Parliament if the necessary votes of 180 MPs in the 300-seat House are not secured.
This is a quandary that has often recurred in the past and in the last 20 years we have seen presidents made of two politicians who had lost the support of voters while in active duty – though I have nothing personal against Costis Stefanopoulos and Karolos Papoulias nor against the ways in which they carried our their presidential duties.
Today, however, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his deputy and coalition partner Evangelos Venizelos suddenly agreed to nominate Fotis Kouvelis, the leader of Democratic Left, a party that nearly disappeared off the political radar in the local and European elections earlier this year. Again, I have nothing personal against Kouvelis, who is a modest and dignified politician albeit with the disadvantages inherent in any leader of a European leftist party. Yet it was not so long ago that cadres of both conservative New Democracy and more so of socialist PASOK, together with media commentators, lambasted and ridiculed Kouvelis for withdrawing his support for the coalition, undermining – for what was truly an insignificant reason – the national effort to save Greece. Today, the rather eccentric and apparently unreliable former coalition partner is being presented as the most likely candidate to clinch the 180 votes in Parliament that will stave off early elections and ensure continued political stability.
It seems that some of our political leaders believe that the country is populated by the Homeric tribe of the Lotus-Eaters. In fact, they may be right because this is the only way to explain the ludicrous things we are witness to on the political stage, such as the dramatic shifts in stance by our politicians.
The problem, however, is that such tactics undermine the country’s fundamental institutions.
That said, the debate over the presidential candidate occurs only once every five years. After the term is over, the president of the Hellenic Republic disappears into the background, a former failed politician who fate determined to hold the highest title of the land.