The honest and poor politician

Recent discussions concerning the salaries and perks of members of Parliament, sparked by the attention-grabbing gestures of PASOK MP Hara Kefalidou and her New Democracy counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis, are being conducted in a misleading manner.

To begin with, under the present likelihood of a selective default or uncontrolled recession, parliamentarians giving up their courtesy cars and special committee bonuses has a symbolic rather than practical significance in terms of saving money. Even the symbolic significance is very slight, insofar as that the debate on the responsibility of Greece?s politicians for the predicament in which the country finds itself today has become limited to a discussion regarding money spent on leasing cars and doing some extra work.

The real problems in the system lie elsewhere. They lie in the trivialization of parliamentary investigative committees that have never punished a single minister for any wrongdoing. They lie in the scandalous law protecting MPs from criminal prosecution and in the blatant cases of politicians breaking the law or serving their own personal agendas. They lie in the irrational and self-serving unequal distribution of seats in the House, with the populous region of Attica being disproportionately under-represented. They lie in the hypocritically incomplete audit of MPs? election campaigns and in the farce that is the ?pothen esches? declaration of sources of wealth. They lie in the inadequate and ignorant MPs who vote on laws that they haven?t even bothered to read, and in those who do not vote as their conscience dictates, but as they are commanded to.

The fact is that providing a car, a telephone, a well-functioning office and a salary equal to that of a high-level business manager is the responsibility of any state toward its MPs so that they can focus all of their energies on their duties. Safeguarding a parliamentarian?s independence from obscure funding and lobbies is only possible when he or she is financially independent. A state of honest poverty for a politicians may be something that can be achieved, but it is not something that can be imposed. So, let?s drop the hypocrisy: The corruption of the political system is not found in openly declared bonuses and leased hybrid cars. It is found somewhere else entirely.