Groundless triumphalism

The decision last week on the royal family’s property by the European Court of Human Rights vindicated Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s administration, as the settlement proposed in 1992 by the conservative government of Constantine Mitsotakis would have meant a greater burden on the public purse. This fact, however, hardly justifies the current administration’s triumphalism over the alleged «final blow» suffered by the monarchy and the «humiliation» of the former king 28 years after the Greek people voted to abolish the monarchy. And it is surely unacceptable to eternally blame the conservative New Democracy party of lacking democratic commitment, when it was the party’s founder who decided and carried out the 1974 referendum that abolished the monarchy. However, the Simitis administration once again seems to be trying to renew its democratic credentials, which have come under fire during its socialist governance, rekindling divisions and passions that had long died out. It attempted the same thing during the local and municipal elections, trying to ride on the back of the ascendance of Giorgos Karatzaferis’s ultra-nationalist party that was portrayed as a threat to democracy in Greece. Again in the case of the royal property, the excess, bitterness and meanness of spirit displayed by the government bothered those Greeks who had the democratic sensibilities and political courage to go by the rules and accept the result of the 1974 referendum. Furthermore, it annoyed those who hold that democracy is not vindictive, that it does not seek to humiliate defeated rivals, institutions or figures that are part of the country’s history. In other words, the government’s display of malignancy – be it artificial or genuine – toward the former king and his family is at odds with what we, p…erhaps rather self-complacently, refer to as Greek generosity – a mixture of forgiveness, high-mindedness and magnanimity, especially toward former enemies or antagonists. Indeed, why is the ex-monarch’s argument that he wished to have a house in his homeland, to return to his own country and be entitled to visit the graves of his parents necessarily hypocritical and deceitful? Post-1974 Greek governments have demanded and received the ex-king’s reassurance that he respects the result of the referendum and the Greek Constitution. In addition, no one today can challenge the strength of Greece’s democracy, its right and ability to defend itself against all threats. In other words, after 28 years of smooth and stable functioning, our democracy is not – as the government would have it – in an incubator being protected against childhood infections. Indeed, would Simitis and his monarch-bashing minister Evangelos Venizelos feel more confident or vindicated were the former king forced to register himself as Constantine Vassilopoulos or even as Constantine Vassilias (King), as this surname also exists? There is a limit to propaganda and political skulduggery. When this is violated, politicians are not only stripped of their arguments, they also run the risk of becoming ridiculous.

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