Reforms with a marginal majority?

Reforms with a marginal majority?

If you win the election, you get the state – that’s the rule in Greece. The state is the winner’s prize. Hence politicians’ worship of absolute majority governments and their abhorrence of coalitions: The victor does not want to share the spoils with anyone else and prefers to reap the benefits arising from his power undisturbed.

A common argument against coalition governments is that they are almost doomed to fail in Greece, because we don’t have a state that can do its job well, regardless of its changing managers. The truth is that in Greece we do not have an effective state, because the single-party administrations that have governed – with small, short-term exceptions – have not allowed it. That is because they treat the state as booty.

Politicians who declare their determination to clash with the “unchanging state” (and in whose ministries the queues of people waiting for political favors rival the number of ministry employees) are parading on our TV screens. It would probably be enough for them to clash with themselves, as they have turned the state into a tool to expand their clientelistic relationships and feed their networks. All they want is to serve their political, party or even personal pursuits. What we have is a public field of expanded corruption.

In this toxic environment, the most conservative and self-serving professional groups flourish, while the few true public servants struggle to keep the country afloat. But this state of affairs has been created with the cooperation of all governments – not against their will.

We do not have an effective state, because the single-party administrations that have governed have not allowed it

The national tragedy at Tempe, where two trains crashed head-on, killing 57 people, came to remind us that this state is rotten, that its side effects are poisonous and even deadly. Nowadays, when the role of the state is upgraded in the developed world and it is accepted that without an organized state and public-private sector cooperation there is no future for development, Greece is still plagued by a clientelistic, backward state, which not only does not complete its complex current tasks, but has also proved dangerous to the lives of its citizens.

Its radical reform is the most vital issue. It is also the most difficult. It presupposes the agreement of wider political and social forces, on the basis of a long-term plan, through a meaningful, disciplined, democratic dialogue.

How can state reform proceed? Perhaps from a government with a large popular majority, which will have a clear vision and a basic plan for a modern, democratic state that will be friendly toward its citizens and facilitate economic growth. In today’s conditions, a government based on a large popular majority can only be a coalition government. As for the other prerequisite, the basic plan, there is none in sight.

How can state reform not proceed? I think it cannot proceed with a majority, one-party government – thanks to the electoral law, it would have a marginal majority in the Parliament and limited public appeal. The reform that the majority government of New Democracy failed to achieve in its four years in power (when there was optimism and great expectations), would perhaps take a miracle to achieve in a second, four-year term, with a marginal majority, a shorter horizon to implement its program, intensifying intra-party activity and with limited patience from society.

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