Governing without a script

Alternate Minister for Citizens’ Protection Yiannis Panousis’s front-page article in Friday’s issue of Ta Nea daily was so good that it is to be envied by any columnist. It was direct, poignant, bold and determined.

“The hour of the Left in Greece is not a time for cost-free dogmas and meaningless sound bites but a time for strengthening institutions, political legitimacy and social consensus,” he wrote. Who could disagree? “I am curious to know what the pure-blooded leftists envision when they talk about ‘left-wing police.’ Is it for policemen to be burned by hooded youths? If so, then who represents democracy and society? And who controls them?” Good question. Can anyone argue with that? Obviously not the wise and the intellectuals.

But there is a problem. Professor Panousis is the minister for citizens’ protection. He was appointed to his post to administer, not to write articles about his field. And he is not alone.

The Left, which has come to power in Greece for the first time, appears to be writing its own governance scenario, which is titled “Guess my role.” It’s not that a rock star has been appointed at the Finance Ministry or that a wolf heads the Ministry of Administrative Reform, put there to guard the sheep, or that the minister of interior is stepping into the shoes of the citizens’ protection minister. A similar confusion of roles and duties is evident throughout the Cabinet. The minister of defense is negotiating Greece’s natural resources without any right to do so, the minister of labor is shaping foreign policy (“If our lenders don’t give us money, they’re pushing us toward Russia,” he recently told German media), the Parliament speaker is making government policy, the government spokesman is busy heading off misfired remarks and statements etc.

Each believes they are doing the best they can about the issue they care about, only their issues do not correspond to their positions. In this comedy of errors, there appears to be no protagonist, not even a writer. And the worst thing is that no one on the stage has noticed. Greece has the historical distinction of being a country ruled by the opposition, because this elected government prefers to exercise opposition to itself rather than govern.

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