Time to act

First it was Deputy Public Order Minister Vangelis Malesios who accepted an offer to stay rent-free in the property of businessman Athanassios Athanassoulis without offering any plausible explanation. Then came the allegations over the stock market gains of State Minister Stefanos Manikas and PASOK Executive Bureau member Michalis Neonakis. Yesterday, we heard the remarks over the pre-election spending of Information Minister Christos Protopappas. And more will probably follow, creating an even more distrustful climate in the country’s political life. It is certain that the aforementioned cases will not prove to be the most blatant ones. The lavish lifestyle and expensive taste of senior government cadres suggest that there are other, more provocative cases. The private helicopters and luxurious houses are part of a lifestyle that far exceeds a politician’s income capabilities. This issue is not a new one. It has repeatedly been raised and it has to do with the funding of parties and parliamentary candidates. As most deputies would readily agree, in order to be elected as a deputy in the first or the second electoral constituency in Athens or Thessaloniki, a candidate has to spend about 200 to 300 billion drachmas. The expected reward if one is elected is less than 100 billion drachmas for the entire four-year term. In most cases, this blatant deficit is impossible to cover, either by previous incomes or through sacrifice. Well-being in these cases points to secret donations by economic barons and other figures who expect to receive political compensation. All these donations, subsidies and secret exchanges give rise to a network of dependent politicians who are forced to do political favors that ultimately undermine democratic institutions and the workings of free competition, and by extension the interests of the Greek people. As a result, the country retreats under the burden of excessive cost. Along with the wealth goes the effort of the Greek public, who see their sacrifices produce no fruit. This is the essence of the problem which threatens to snowball, taking both the innocent and the guilty along with it. There is no room for half-measures. The prime minister must intervene, take political initiatives, act decisively, stop keeping up appearances, and put an end to this climate of malaise, which jeopardizes all of society. Should he fail to do so, he will be responsible for the dire consequences.