An own goal

Until a few days ago, everything seemed well planned. Prime Minister Costas Simitis had offered full protection to his two aides, Michalis Neonakis and Stefanos Manikas, after the Avriani daily accused them of unwarranted stock market dealings. On the other hand, sources inside the Maximos Mansion said that both cadres were due to lose their seats in July. Their removal, however, was to take place in a smooth and non-dramatic fashion, that is, through a reshuffle of the Executive Bureau. In that way, Simitis would neither appear to be succumbing to pressure, nor to be tolerating morally dubious behavior. Things changed when National Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis submitted a Capital Market Commission (CMC) report to Parliament. The document found no illegal dealings but dealt a political blow to the two officials as it stated Neonakis’s stunning bourse trade. The remarks by Deputy Press Minister Telemachos Hytiris that Simitis was not fully informed on the issue reinforces the impression that Christodoulakis underestimated the weight of the findings, except had he decided to reveal it in fear of being later accused of suppressing it. It would be great had Simitis and Christodoulakis acted the way they did out of respect for the institutions, but the available information does not support this conclusion. Quite the opposite. It appears that due to a lack of coordination, the responsible government officials just let matters take their course, which entailed significant political cost for the premier. Christodoulakis’s role in this case has made him the target of in-party rivals. Hytiris’s remarks leave the top Socialist minister exposed to his detractors, while it is the first time that Simitis has turned against one of his proteges. It remains to be seen whether this was just a reprimand, or something still to be completed via the upcoming reshuffle.

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