Greece?s Parliament has a strong theatrical bent. But then again, so does politics. The House which hosts the meetings of our national representatives does not always function as a greenhouse for fresh ideas. In fact it is usually the battleground for fierce confrontation between the rival parties aimed at causing a sensation among newspaper readers and television audiences.
Speaking in Parliament late on Tuesday, Greece?s Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos said that democracy in Greece was effectively established with PASOK?s advent to power in 1981. A fuming Costas Tasoulas, secretary for New Democracy?s parliamentary group, left the House along with the other conservative deputies as Prime Minister George Papandreou was trying to retract the comments voiced by his deputy. New Democracy MPs eventually returned to their seats, led by their leader Antonis Samaras, who then made his own scathing remarks.
The problem is not the Greek deputies? theatrical antics. Rather, the problem lies in the fact that the entire show was totally out of place and time. Sure, Greece?s democracy is not defined by PASOK?s rise to power in 1981, nor for that matter by Constantine Karamanlis?s return to Greece in 1974. Greece had a democracy also before the military coup in April 1967 and it was the democratic coalition governments that fought the communists during the country?s civil war.
The big problem now is that the political system established after the end of the military dictatorship has come full circle. Politicians are questioned — even harassed — by the masses, while the prime minister is coming up with all sorts of ways to confirm the legitimacy of his government by overrating the outcome of municipal elections or by interpreting PASOK deputies? confidence vote as a sign of social legitimacy.
For a year now, the Papandreou administration has introduced regulations mandated by the country?s international creditors and it plans to vote on a second memorandum by the end of the month, thereby undoing the economic system set up by PASOK socialists in 1981.
However, one cannot expect the politicians who created the economic monster to kill their creation. There can be no radical change in the economy without a prior change of the political system — a system which squabbles over the emergence of democracy in Greece. No amount of theatrical improvisation will be enough to save this nation from slipping into a deadlock.