Political blow

Parliament’s vote against the bill banning deputies from carrying out other professional activities during their term of office was not a bolt from the blue. In fact, it makes one wonder why Prime Minister Costas Simitis insisted on following a course that was doomed to deliver a political defeat. This time, the display of force backfired. The controversial bill does not concern an aspect of government policy and for this reason there was no question of party discipline. Those who interpreted the move as a no-confidence vote are out of place. On the other hand, Simitis’s failure to bring his deputies under the party line tarnished his image. What’s more, he suffered a blow at a time of resurgent intra-party dissent. The climate of euphoria witnessed in the wake of the Copenhagen summit has died out. The die was cast when the constitutional provision on the bill was passed, notably with a vote by many conservative deputies. In this sense, the responsible minister acted correctly. Although Costas Skandalidis found himself trapped without being responsible, he nevertheless carried out an unenviable role with remarkable dignity. In essence, the law compromises deputies’ political independence, because it undermines their power to be consistent with their principles. Putting his re-election above everything else, a deputy is caught up in a situation of double dependence: to his party leader on the one hand, and to the money and media barons on the other. Allowing deputies to hold second jobs may create conditions for preferential treatment and unfair competition. However, this should be tackled with specialized provisions and not with an indiscriminate constitutional ban, which is bound to bring undesirable consequences.