Piggybacking power

The resignation of the prime minister’s chief press adviser once again underscored a perennial ill besetting our political system. Our country has enjoyed democratic institutions for more than a quarter of a century, but one must be blind not to see that alongside the institutionalized and accountable bodies there flourish several extra-institutional power centers that often muster more power than their elected counterparts. Non-elected and unaccountable figures latch onto political leaders early enough to turn themselves into commanding poles of power. Riding on the back of power, they acquire strength that is totally disproportionate to their actual political weight or qualities and effectively become arrogant little despots. Starting by influencing their protector’s decisions and continuing with ever more autonomous initiatives and acts, they manage to exert decisive influence not only on the line of the ruling party of the time but, ultimately, also on the very course of the country. This time it was Giorgos Pantayias. Before him it was Theodoros Tsoukatos or Dimitra Papandreou, the wife of the late premier. And tomorrow, who knows. The major problem is that there will always be someone willing to play this role. And this shows that we’re faced with a structural political problem, not a case of personal misdeed. What is worse, these small power groups, made up of politicians, businessmen, journalists, artists and so on, are the incubators of corruption. Being protected by virtue of their extra-institutional nature against any outside intervention, they’re able to consolidate and use their power. The deep political crisis and the absence of leaders who enjoy strong ties with the people facilitate the growth of these groups and increases their power. Contemporary politicians use these networks to climb their way to the top and maintain their power once they get there. Needless to say that once in power, these figures do not hesitate to reward those who promoted them and keep nourishing the growth of extra-institutional centers that constitute the most dynamic underpinnings of their power. Greece’s political elite cares little if the interventions by these power groups render our democracy all the more an empty shell.