The campaign to purge the country’s political system of corruption has finally started. Two of the country’s highest-profile politicians – former Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos, who also served as a New Democracy minister in the 1980s, and former Socialist heavyweight Akis Tsochatzopoulos, who also hails from the northern port city – have both been dragged to prison.
In the past they were supported by tens of thousands of PASOK and New Democracy voters, who placed trust in the integrity of their character or at least in their ability to manage public matters. The country’s economic establishment was keen to schmooze with Tsochatzopoulos – after all, he was a minister with nationwide influence – to advance their material interests.
Innocent supporters were disillusioned and the corrupt ones were ridiculed. Some are now worried about the potential repercussions as the scandalous deals with these politicians come to light. Greece’s already discredited political system has suffered a devastating blow.
Some critics say that their punishment was, perhaps, too harsh. Others say that the judges were influenced by the overall mood or the reductions to their salaries – cries and signs of confusion from a system that is coming apart.
The Thessaloniki duo are not the only ones to have made major blunders. More will soon come to light. But any campaign to clean up corruption must include the monitoring and the full transparency of party finances and political donations because political and business entanglement is fueled by the lack of transparency.
Putting banks under supervision is expected to halt the scandalous funding of parties whose debt is unsustainable. The point is to stop clandestine money from donors to parties in exchange for political favors. It is unacceptable that while wages and pensions are being severely slashed, while businesses are closing down, and while the middle class is being dismantled, some are trying to keep the cost of political activity, as it were, at sky-high levels.
After all, the method does not work anymore. The Italian establishment failed to knock out Silvio Berlusconi in the last national elections while Beppe Grillo came out of nowhere to win 25 percent of the vote. Something similar took place in the Greek elections with the meteoric rise of SYRIZA, Golden Dawn and the Independent Greeks.
It’s hard for traditional parties to accept their discrediting in such a short period of time. It’s even harder for interests outside the political system to grapple with what is happening. We are witnessing the dismantling of the Greek political system. And this is just the beginning.