A Greek-style tea party

Greece?s two mainstream parties, the Socialists of ruling PASOK and the New Democracy conservative opposition, made a bid to restore their damaged credibility by looking into the responsibilities of the political officials who oversaw the transactions between German electronics giant Siemens and the Greek state. The effort fell through.

The political system set up after the fall of the military dictatorship in the early 1970s is now bankrupt. Its decline was not a result of forces outside the nation?s institutions, like the Greek Parliament, as many would have us suspect in the past.

No longer can political leaders from the left or the right point a finger at the monarchy. The military, once the subject of many a conspiracy theory, has steered clear of politics. Greece?s politicians have only themselves to blame this time.

Washington, which in the past has also been accused of manipulating the domestic political scene — often at the invitation of Greek politicians — has done little more than defend its immediate foreign policy interests, just like every other big power.

For many years, Greece?s bourgeois politicians would prove their democratic credentials by declaring their opposition to the king or the Americans. As for the people, they happily went along with the farce. Everything went fine until the military dictatorship in 1967.

Andreas Papandreou, the late founder of PASOK and father of incumbent Prime Minister George Papandreou, reignited the perennial dilemma of whether Greece belongs to the West or the East — a recurring question since the end of the Byzantine Empire. The rule of his reformist successor, Costas Simitis, saw a convergence between Greece?s mainstream parties over the nation?s western orientation which made the confrontation between the two pointless. Everything became a question of management, and PASOK, lacking in ideological vigor, saw fit to bash the right-wing bogeyman, ignoring the fact that in the post-1974 period, the right-wing movement in Greece continued to gain momentum, albeit in a different manner than it did in France or elsewhere of Europe.

Politics gradually elevated ethics to a central theme — controversially at a time when corruption and graft were deepening. Now the parties are struggling to restore their ties with voters, but it is questionable whether their efforts will pay off. People simply do not care and they will soon seek to take things in their own hands. Perhaps we should brace ourselves for a local tea party movement.