Simitis, then and now

The violation of the code of ethics is not a rare phenomenon in political life. Nor is it an exclusively Greek one. It can be observed in all Western countries with a lengthy parliamentary tradition. However, there are some unwritten yet clear bounds that political leaders always take care not to overstep. And this is because they know that breaching these rules will undermine the foundations of democracy. The truth is that from the late 1970s, the current prime minister displayed a clear preference for a specific type of political behavior. This stance has been central to his public image and the ensuing reformist discourse which led him to power in January 1996. It is worth remembering here the criticism that Costas Simitis made after 1987 of the political ethos and behavior of the late Socialist Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou. He accused him of favoring a one-man-rule system, of eliminating democracy from party procedures, and of turning a blind eye to the unwarranted practices of his friends and allies. He also attacked Papandreou’s populism and sterile right-wing bashing. During the crisis of 1989, the current prime minister had carefully avoided siding with the Socialist party line and had indirectly yet clearly distanced himself from attempts to defend the prosecuted Socialist strongman. People in the know are aware that in his private conversations during that crucial summer, Simitis was more critical of PASOK than the party’s official opposition. In particular, he lamented Papandreou’s pretexts that he was the victim of an organized plot as a cheap conspiracy theory. It is no coincidence that the economic and media barons who had thrown themselves behind the attempt to purge Greece’s body politic of corruption (the so-called «catharsis») were to become the warmest supporters of Simitis as a candidate and premier. Any comparison with the present day is devastating. Most ironically, as party leader and prime minister, Simitis does not hesitate to do everything that he detested in his predecessor. However, in Papandreou’s time, political passions ran high, and such behavior was largely legitimate. Today, the premier’s right-wing bashing and his – politically groundless – allegations of conspiracies arouse mirth. Officials at the Maximos Mansion should be aware of the fact that «history repeats itself as farce.»

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