The exploits of the ‘captains’

The exploits of certain members of a former group of political neophytes – who became known as the «captains» and were the mainstays of reformist Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s one-time struggle against the traditional party establishment – have rocked not only the government camp but just about everyone in Greek politics. Attempts to rebut the charges cannot restore political order to the country, because the public’s impression of those wielding power is so negative that even their triumphant vindication would not be convincing. What is profoundly disturbing is that corruption and entangled interests are an integral element of the system, given the vast sums of money required to elect deputies. Election cannot be secured without significant contributions from entrepreneurs, who in turn naturally demand a payoff on their investments in the country’s politicians. This is common knowledge, but since the public has become incensed, and rightly so, the delusions of those who mistake their desires for reality must be dispelled. For a start, no substantive shake-up will take place, because the political establishment neither wants reform nor is in a position to impose it. Major economic interests – many of them state-financed – are so intertwined with the political system that it is almost impossible for them to kick the habit. On a practical level, one must not overestimate the effect of the current crisis on the government and in particular on Prime Minister Simitis himself, who may remove others as he sees fit – he has already done so in the recent past – and thus appear to be the one who has performed the necessary purge. Besides, neither the lamentable state of the economy nor the uproar of the past few days will lead him to declare early elections, as some have speculated. Simitis will serve his full four-year term, to the delight of deputies from all parties, and after the current Greek presidency of the European Union he will deal with domestic issues and the 2004 Olympics, which virtually provide the economy’s sole motive force. Hopes for success in the April 2004 elections are very dim if not non-existent, but politicians, as a breed, fall prey to the naivete they call optimism. It would be wise to reconcile oneself to the idea that Simitis will serve out his term and that the civil war within PASOK, which has been brought to the surface by the issue of the «captains,» will blow over, with some losses. Because those who have held power for 20 years do not, unfortunately, have any intention of committing suicide.