Parliament makes for a lousy show

The Greek Parliament has not once in the past few years shown itself to be a place of productive political dialogue. Discussions on the party chief level have been little more than mediocre — if not bad — theatrical performances of a B-rate troupe. Of all who have served as prime minister over the course of a few decades, only Constantine Mitsotakis appeared to be in his element in the chamber of Parliament, probably because he had so little charisma in his other public appearances.

It came as no surprise, therefore, that yesterday?s discussion — which basically consisted of a series of parallel monologues — followed the same unproductive pattern, with a new added feature. Where the role of master of ceremonies in Greek politics has been assumed by Giorgos Karatzaferis of the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party, at yesterday?s parliamentary session we saw opposition New Democracy chief Antonis Samaras and Prime Minister George Papandreou, head of PASOK, espousing the role as well. They should not be wasting their energy; they haven?t got a sense of humor and they are vain, wanting to come out of every situation unruffled.

There is no doubt that our political leaders? oratory skills have diminished significantly with the intervention of television in politics. They look for clever sound bites so that they may increase their chances of being broadcast on prime-time news bulletins. When they do try to develop a political argument, the point goes unnoticed by the viewing public, which, after all, represents the majority.

Even more absurd than the environment created by our political system is for someone to take issue with the way the mass media, and especially electronic media, handle ?political material.? The fact is that parliamentary debate has become dull and, therefore, by necessity, is delivered in sound bites.

Parliament had its glory day in the aftermath of the dictatorship, when the people thirsted for democratic procedure and needed some way to familiarize themselves with their politicians.

Unflinching supporters of the various parties were no doubt pleased by yesterday?s performance, but sound bites are not enough to inspire a society to pull itself out of the doldrums.

The ?national success? in Brussels to which Papandreou alluded does not erase the specter of bankruptcy nor breed confidence, because before we reached this tragic impasse we had seen a whole parade of Greek ?successes? and ?triumphs? in the framework of the European Union.

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