The new start that Prime Minister Costas Simitis requested from his ministers seems to have been interpreted as encouragement to root out the staff of their predecessors. Numerous ministers have already made a strong presence, dismissing secretaries, aides and other members of the staff of the outgoing ministers before they even had a chance to meet them. These removals are not, of course, legally reprehensible as the ousted officials were not permanent staff. However, they do touch upon the essence of government performance and could create ruptures in the future. Ministers invoke the excuse that in order to promote their work they require not only absolutely trustworthy staff but also personnel that have been tried and tested by the head of the ministry, as this is the only way that the latter can be sure that orders will be carried out. This is not a groundless claim, nor can one blame a new minister if he wants his right-hand man as confidante and not that of his predecessor. This, however, is one thing, while the mass replacement of the entire non-permanent staff is quite another, for rather than limited changes in crucial posts, we see the sweeping removal of all political officials on which new ministers should base their information of the ministry’s outstanding issues and learn the political decisions of the previous chief. Furthermore, PASOK’s long governance and the fact that both the outgoing and the new staff belong to the Socialist party, removes any justification that the dismissals are needed to purge the field of political adversaries. In this light, one cannot help drawing the conclusion that these mass dismissals confirm the existence of personal objectives and the practice of rallying around traditional PASOK ministers, so that the move of the latter from one ministry to another entails the transfer of an entire group, regardless whether the aides are specialized in the previous or the new ministry. This last point is very counteractive for government performance. Indeed, if the formation of groupings inside the ruling Socialists concerns PASOK and Simitis himself, the mass vacancies in top ministerial seats prejudice the administration, whose rule has, unfortunately, since the time of the late Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, been based less on staff hierarchy and more on a constantly mobile group of ministerial aides.

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