OPINION

Storm in a teacup

Over the past couple of weeks, Prime Minister Costas Simitis has bombarded Greek citizens, announcing his plans for the economy and bragging about «powerful Greece» – in which direct foreign investment over the past year amounted to no more than $50 million, a sum gained in the average under-the-table transaction in the past decade. Having completed his economic initiatives, Simitis is due next week to present a couple of new initiatives – the electoral law that will come into force in 2008 and the bill providing for the deputies’ declaration of assets. Simitis has the ability to cause a storm in a teacup, which was proved during the debate over the new election law. After throwing his Socialist deputies for a loop, the reformist prime minister was forced to step back and, in the end, the only novelty was the enhanced proportionality of the new law, which aims at appeasing or «engaging» a section of the left. Furthermore, on Thursday the government will present the bill on the parliamentarians’ declaration of assets – a move which was scorned by former Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and which irked many members of Parliament, simply because Simitis’s anti-corruption drive was more a threat to Socialist deputies than to anyone else. Greece’s representative system is in continuous decline, as the success of parliamentary candidates depends on the generous donations of their business cronies. But in any case, members of Parliament were not the only ones to be thrown by the stock market turmoil of 1999, which resulted in a dramatic redistribution of wealth to the benefit of a small group of political and economic barons. Simitis is an ersatz politician. For some time, he tried to convince the public of his administrative abilities. But he ultimately failed in that respect as well, unable to promote the modernization of the public administration, public health or any other basic sector within government competence; the prime minister was reduced to administering European Union funds. His performance in this area was so akward that most people tend to mistake economic development for political and business entanglement. It is obvious that what is at stake in the coming elections is not the defeat of PASOK’s followers but the purging of a political and economic network operating under the auspices of Simitis. In the name of modernization, this network has paralyzed politics and the country’s social system. The only thing that it can be proud of is of having launched an all-out attack on every traditional idea that helps bind the nation-state together. The reformist prime minister is no longer able to motivate his close aides, let alone the public, and in a sense it is unfortunate that we will have to deal with his presence until the coming elections.