Political alibi

In criminal cases, a defendant’s alibi is accepted provided he can prove he was elsewhere when the crime in question was committed. In politics, proving a suspect’s alibi, and thereby his innocence, is far more simple. It is sufficient for the defendant to change his seat in government. All a public works minister has to do, for example, is to become party secretary, and all allegations against that person will, as if by magic, be transferred to the faceless position just vacated. And, as we know, political posts don’t often end up standing trial. The outrageous budget overruns of the Attiki Odos highway, the parody of the land register (which has cost 20 billion drachmas, or 59 million euros), the deficient anti-flood works in Moschato and the long delays in major projects «should all be attributed to the previous minister, not me.» This is what Minister Vasso Papandreou seems to suggest when she refuses to cover for or, more astonishingly, to incriminate her predecessor Costas Laliotis for his numerous and suspect oversights – as she ought to, and as she would were her predecessor from a rival party. Therefore, we have a situation where the government spokesman is trying to explain the inexplicable by creating confusion, even arguing that there’s nothing implausible or suspicious about the fact that a project expected to cost 427 billion drachmas (1.2 billion euros) will ultimately cost three times more. In light of this, Laliotis’s silence is expected and typical. Why should the party secretary be held accountable for the omissions of the former public works minister? Thus, the difference between an alibi in politics and criminal law becomes blurred. Changing posts becomes reminiscent of criminals changing their names to escape justice. More so when the name-change is accompanied by an alteration in countenance, such as the growing of a beard.

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