Presidential blast against politicians

Greece’s President Karolos Papoulias yesterday chided the country’s politicians for failing to tackle graft and engaging in petty party politics instead of building consensus on how to deal with the problem. Papoulias hosted the country’s top politicians and other dignitaries at the Presidential Mansion last night for an event to mark the 34th anniversary of the restoration of democracy in Greece following the military junta. Just as last year, when he spoke out about Greece’s poor environmental record, Papoulias grabbed the opportunity to tell politicians a few home truths, apparently with the ongoing investigation Siemens scandal in mind. «Politics without morals is a dangerous thing that leads to public opinion distancing itself from public affairs and to extreme behavior,» said Papoulias. The president said that politicians should stop regarding a life in politics as «a vehicle for their personal wealth and a comfortable life.» Papoulias underlined that all the political parties would need to come together – something that looks unlikely given the bickering between New Democracy and PASOK, in particular over the Siemens scandal – to find a way to combat corruption. «Parties have a responsibility to the people to explain the sins of their representatives in a clear and specific way, without worming out of it,» he said. «They have a duty to convince people that they are operating in transparency. «Our democracy demands that there is agreement across the whole of the political system so that it can protect itself. It demands effective and transparent checks and exemplary penalties.» He said that the matter was even more sensitive now that people were encountering more economic problems but also called on the public to put pressure on politicians. «Citizens have the responsibility to demand from the people that represent them to display morals and exemplary behavior and to support those who during their political careers have shown dignity and a willingness to serve.» Papoulias’s speech came after an investigation into claims that Siemens paid bribes to politicians to secure state contracts was put on ice, prompting arguments between ND and PASOK over what the next step should be.