COMMENT

Who can stand the heat?

By Alexis Papachelas

Greece?s political system is broken. The post-dictatorship period of the restoration of democracy, has come full circle and the once-dominant ideologies have collapsed.

But the problem is not only structural. Greek politicians are near breaking point. That?s only natural given all that has happened since last October. Greece repeatedly found itself on the verge of a complete breakdown; two general elections were held; political parties were split into smaller groupings; the party system flirted with suicide following former Premier George Papandreou?s referendum idea and political leaders vacillated between positions and rhetoric. Moreover, it all occured against the backdrop of deep disaffection with the status quo.

Being a politician in Greece is not what it used to be. The pressure is too big these days and you can see the exhaustion in the eyes of those who are holding the nation?s fate in their hands, even if they are in the opposition. You can hear the concern (or is it desperation?) in their voices.

But it would be tragic if the nation were to pay the price for the fatigue and mental breakdown of its leaders, or at least some of them. When you are tired you make mistakes -- and mistakes can cost dearly at this crucial moment. A good leader must be solid and sanguine.

Sure, it?s hard to sympathize with our politicians after all that has happened. After all, political involvement is voluntary and our politicians are mature enough to know the challenges involved. Hopefully they will find some time to calm down and get some much-needed rest, because the coming months will be tough. Europe will continue to flirt with disaster, Greek society is near its tolerance limit while political and social confrontation will intensify. Political decisions will determine the future of the country; they cannot be affected by exhaustion, bad tempers or personal issues.

The break will hopefully give them a chance to think clearly about where this country is going.

Regardless of our opinions and political convictions, we are all responsible and accountable for the country?s future. The biggest risk is civil strife triggered by the combination of social tension, frustration and political irresponsibility. We will need cool heads to make sure the country does not drift toward instability and chaos. As for those who can?t stand the pressure, perhaps they?d rather stand aside. As Harry Truman put it, ?If you can?t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.?

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