NEWS

Election campaign race begins amid prime minister’s conspiracy scenarios

The mood during the past few days has been gloomy, an indication of what lies ahead on the long – if it so proves – campaign trail that has just begun. The government has resorted to extreme measures in response to increasing pressure. Some of its members face serious allegations and Prime Minister Costas Simitis refuses to understand how the public image campaign he embarked upon during his current tenure of Greece’s presidency of the European Union has backfired. In denying that his party’s forces have been spent, and having himself created a false image of the prevailing economic and social conditions in Greece, far removed from the concerns of ordinary people, the prime minister has resorted to the customary device of seeking out a domestic scapegoat. It was not hard to find. The multitude of sycophants were only too keen to spread the rumor of a conspiracy which he could build upon. «Vested interests are against you, Prime Minister, businessmen are meeting behind closed doors hatching plans for the future, redistributing the spoils. They aren’t with you, they’ve decided to get rid of you,» is the cry both of those with egg on their faces as well as those who have come up in the world and feel it is time to claim their share in the power stakes. In his turn, the prime minister, his back to the wall and feeling like a leader whose moment of triumph (in Europe in this particular case) has been spoiled, has found the solution he was looking for in the domestic enemy. War has been declared on those interests, and also on Kathimerini, convincing those who still might be skeptical, including (acting government spokesman) Telemachos (Hytiris), who made a fool of himself trying to explain the risks of single-hulled tankers, which Kathimerini’s owner does not in fact possess. Those who have been singled out for criticism and then cleared by the prime minister have been rubbing their hands in glee. They have begun to hurl insults and promises and even worse, preparing for newer, even more profitable areas of activity for their friends. Corruption efforts It is no coincidence that while all these conspiracy theories were being hatched, those in charge at the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), in one of the biggest displays of corruption since the fall of the dictatorship, were drafting one of its largest ever advertising campaigns. OTE is to distribute 117.5 million euros (40 billion drachmas) to the media to forge alliances for the elections, put money in party coffers and who knows where else, at a time when international organizations are downgrading its credit standing. The entire administration of the corresponding German telecommunications organization lost their jobs over a similar issue, which in Greece passed almost without mention. «We will not stand by and leave our party to the mercy of all comers. We will go on the attack, reveal the plans being hatched by various interests and the new deals under way,» was the portentous comment of a government official in referring to a fresh onslaught by the manufactured domestic enemy. Even before this, the government announced the merger of Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) and Petrola, following negotiations that were anything but transparent. No matter how much propaganda is spread, the market is aware that the government made it easy for the Latsis group to rid itself of Petrola, making it the potential owner of a super-monopoly in the blink of an eye. Whatever the agreement with ELPE, the government cannot talk about conspiracies when the entire merger procedure was made under the table through direct negotiations, with no semblance of transparency and with the shareholders in ignorance of the conditions. Power is all The government appears determined to use every means at its disposal to save itself. Everything points to the fact that it is ready to do a deal with the devil in order to hang on to power, continuing negotiations with the economic powers-that-be to secure the greatest degree of support. Due to the difficulty of its position and its limited negotiating power, it is ready to give all. There are already reports of a reconciliation with businessman Socrates Kokkalis. The head of Intracom and the Olympiakos football team, who had been sidelined until just recently, is now counting on new commissions. Meanwhile, much activity has been observed recently around the Astir Hotel in Vouliagmeni, with a report from the relevant ministers on funding the company to prepare it for sale at the right moment, possibly to powerful construction interests. There is the general conviction that the government is so steeped in the mentality of power that it will not hesitate to use even undemocratic methods: discrediting people, making allegations of even non-existent intentions in order to mobilize PASOK’s electoral base. Whether all these plans are successful is another issue. What is certain is that the campaign trail is likely to be a road to hell, a combination of fire and mud slung out on all sides by people who don’t know what they are doing.