OPINION

Political wretchedness

While inviting opposition parties to discuss his proposals for a new electoral system, the government of Costas Simitis has revived the political wretchedness of the past. After a package of social benefits and a charter of fantasies, the Cabinet will tomorrow push yet another wave of illegal building legalizations. Replicating the late Andreas Papandreou’s pet habit of distorting words and concepts, Deputy Public Works Minister Rodoula Zisi brushed aside accusations that the measure effectively legalizes wrongdoing, arguing instead that the government is merely «facilitating the inclusion of these buildings in the town plan, so as to solve a social problem.» Of course, both Zisi and Simitis know that this acute social problem is a result of a mentality that the ruling party itself has infused into a large section of the public. The State is seen as rewarding inconsistency and insolvency, as it has repeatedly written off public debts. It is also seen as rewarding tax evasion as it postpones or settles debts at the expense of law-abiding citizens. On the whole, PASOK governments tend to encourage minimum effort without rewarding ability, qualification and merit. Simitis has never referred to these factors so as to avoid painful self-criticism for his political past. Still, the premier appears to know the implications and the root cause of the problem. This is confirmed by the reformist slogan on which he succeeded Papandreou. Unfortunately, after eight years in power, Simitis has failed to fulfill his commitment to modernizing the party and, worse, he is reverting to Papandreou’s populist tactics. Why would anyone entrust him with the modernization of Greece’s political system – the goal that constitutes his new but unfeasible mantra?