The surprise resignation of Nikos Sakellariou as chair of the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court, last week has rekindled the debate over political interference in the judicial system.
Greek judges’ unions have issued numerous statements suggesting efforts to tamper with the judiciary’s independence, while Sakellariou himself had, on at least two occasions (one in the presence of Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis), publicly spoken of attempted manipulation.
Meanwhile, accusations of government interference in several specific investigations and rulings has also fueled polarization between the administration and the opposition. The Novartis bribery case is a case in point, as judicial officials have been accused of facilitating the SYRIZA-led government’s agenda.
The judicial body has naturally not been immune to the tension. Divisions were painfully exposed when former Supreme Court president Vassiliki Thanou sought to extend the age limit for Greek judges beyond the maximum of 67 years.
Meanwhile, recent appointments of judicial officials that at first sight appear to impact on areas of a purely judicial nature, in fact signal a more profound shift toward cases with political dimensions.