Gathering storm

Prime Minister Costas Simitis has generally been considered a lucky man. These days, however, his luck seems to be running out. Ongoing revelations about the links between Simitis’s close aides and business interests have tainted Athens’s successful EU summit, his paramount political achievement. Simitis’s massive and enthusiastic welcome by the Greek-Cypriot community provided some comfort, but all good things must come to an end. On his return, the premier will be confronted with a fresh political scandal. Even if a small fraction of the recent talk in the corridors of power is true, the case will probably snowball. The forced resignation of Deputy Public Order Minister Evangelos Malesios was not the end of the story, as Maximos Mansion had hoped, but rather threatens to open a can of worms. Press reports implicate two more Socialist cadres. Michalis Neonakis is more than a member of the executive bureau. He is Simitis’s trusted ally in the party mechanism. Unfortunately, Minister of State Stefanos Manikas, who has always been portrayed as an ethical figure, is also implicated. According to sources, another close Simitis aide will soon be in a spot. Neither of them deny their impressive stock market gains. By contrast, most ordinary people saw their savings evaporate in the Athens bourse. This is not a criminal case, but there will be heavy political repercussions for them and the ruling party. The public will draw its own conclusions. Morality in politics has always been a crucial issue, for some will always be vulnerable to temptation. Some government officials are, no doubt, far more deeply mired in corruption and entanglement. This, however, does not absolve those who are implicated in the recent scandal. The desperate attempt by the two men to attribute the allegations to an orchestrated campaign by political adversaries who ostensibly aim to undermine the government and PASOK, caused a bad impression. The Avriani newspaper has its own agenda but this does not change the essence of the issue, especially given the fact that Neonakis and Manikas do not reject the allegations. The ball is now in the premier’s court. Simitis’s reaction will determine whether the scandal will be reduced to a specific group of persons or whether it will drag the entire administration down with it.