OPINION

PM’s responsibilities

Despite the premier’s efforts to regain the initiative, the government remains hostage to an extremely negative climate. Regardless of the considerations of Avriani publisher Giorgos Kouris, a moral and political issue has undoubtedly arisen that the government cannot afford to evade. Needless to say, the head of the government cannot act under the pressure of blackmail. Nor can he turn himself into a detective in order to find out whether any of his deputies have exploited their office for politically expedient reasons. Being personally honest, however, is not enough. The prime minister has enough power – which is awarded to him via public mandate – to safeguard a context for appropriate governance. This can be achieved through the establishment of institutional safeguards and through the cultivation of an environment that does not tolerate unwarranted moral behavior. Costas Simitis’s record at this level is dismal. The public has long been convinced, and rightfully so, that corruption and political and business entanglement are no exception to the rule. Instead, these tendencies seem to have snowballed. A fundamental reason for this is the tolerance that the prime minister has unjustifiably displayed over the years. The mere fact that it took a true deluge of scandal allegations to persuade Simitis to finally announce a series of measures aimed at purging the political domain of corruption is an indirect, but still clear, admission of his failure. It also highlights that, contrary to what he says, Simitis has been forced to react under the pressure of allegations and not because he has personally set out to curb the corrosive phenomena of corruption and intertwined interests. The truth is that so far as corruption is concerned the Simitis government has provoked public sentiment – a fact which is bound to harm the political and electoral prospects of the ruling Socialists. Recent opinion polls confirmed the trends that have been recorded over the last couple of years. The opposition New Democracy party is expanding its lead slowly but steadily. This is not a linear process. Unexpected political developments may upset short-term trends, but they are highly unlikely to reverse the conservative momentum. The moral dimension of the burgeoning crisis has injured the ruling party, and the next set of opinion surveys are expected to reflect this. That is despite the fact that the public has little hope that a political changeover will cleanse our political life.