Tuesday evening’s session in Parliament, when MPs debated how to solve the impasse over hunger striker Nikos Romanos’s demands for study furloughs, and its happy conclusion the day after can be seen as the most encouraging sign with regard to the state of democracy in Greece of late.
During these two sessions, deputies from all opposition parties, with the exception of Golden Dawn, worked passionately and creatively alongside coalition partner PASOK MPs in order to suggest to Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou a legislative solution that would keep Romanos alive without damaging the correctional system’s operations and reputation or negatively affecting the country’s democracy and human rights.
The truth is that a large number of other state officials also reacted to this emergency situation and pulled their weight in an effort to find a solution. Nevertheless, in terms of the Greek Parliament alone, it is hard to recall a similar display of efficiency and convergence in the country’s recent past.
It is widely said that our members of Parliament find consensus across partisan lines only when it comes to issues regarding their salaries and privileges. In the wake of this week’s action, however, they seemed to have saved the honor of the parliamentary system.
They even went beyond that: The lawmakers demonstrated, in practical terms, that when it comes to crucial matters, common ground can be found. This was the landmark message that was sent out by Parliament this week.
To begin with the MPs showed they can agree that a problem actually exists and that they are willing to define it. They then proved that they are capable of agreeing that a solution must be found, some kind of solution, not necessarily the one put forward by someone or another, but a conclusion or something which is accepted and provides a satisfactory solution to the issue in question.
Finally, Greece’s legislators proved that they can react swiftly produce results by presenting a stream of alternative proposals with honesty and the ability to relent when necessary, without anyone losing out in terms of political capital and with an end result promoting justice and the political system.
We should all remember this capability of convergence and decisiveness in the face of an emergency situation as demonstrated by Greek politicians on December 9 and 10, 2014. It will prove particularly useful.