NEWS

For government, a ‘right-wing conspiracy’

The possible effect on the government of a judicial investigation currently under way into the activities of Socrates Kokkalis is still an unknown quantity. Officially, the government is trying to blame the entire affair on a «right-wing conspiracy,» in which certain «interests» are trying to destabilize the country’s political life, to force early elections and a victory for ND, which would then administer the funds from the Third Community Support Framework. On the sidelines, however, senior government officials have understood that the reality is far more complex politically. They have hinted that the government has found itself caught in a maelstrom of continuing revelations about Kokkalis and pressure from major interest groups that are extremely difficult to control, a situation exacerbated even more by extreme rivalry between television channels. Investigation in Germany Developments in the Kokkalis case are an especial cause for concern. Officially, the government says it is waiting for justice to take its course. However, there is real anxiety as, according to reliable sources, no one within the government really knows where the investigation will lead. Indeed, over the past few days, a high-ranking state official allegedly went to Germany to take delivery of documents that will give the government a fuller picture of the evidence in the case. The government is trying to formulate a comprehensive strategy on the issue, as it believes ND will try to make political capital of the fact that Kokkalis got rich during PASOK administrations. At the same time, it is not sure how Kokkalis himself will react under judicial pressure. Rivalry between business and publishing interests for a share of the Third Community Support Framework (CSF) is turning into another major headache for the government. At a Cabinet meeting last Thursday, Simitis directly linked the adverse political climate of recent weeks with efforts by certain circles to destabilize the government in order to secure the largest possible share of the generous funds from the CSF. Some of the prime minister’s associates are even saying that, despite reports to the contrary, even groups formerly supportive of PASOK, and Simitis himself, have entered the race. The same sources say that efforts to establish a new modus vivendi with these groups have not been particularly successful. The government also appears to have lost complete control of major problems. Leading government officials admit that when it takes more than three weeks to make a final decision regarding the problem of illegal gambling, the public gets the impression that the country does not have a strong government. In a climate such as this, Simitis’s pressure on his ministers for «fast track» progress in the government’s work does not seem feasible. Many within PASOK believe that the ruling party is in for a resounding defeat in this year’s local elections, likely to lead to further political developments.