OPINION

Political decline

In his early years as prime minister, Costas Simitis was treated as a moderate politician who, despite plunging domestic politics into a state of unbearable dullness, was greeted with relief by a considerable segment of PASOK voters seeking to disengage themselves from the legacy of the late Socialist premier Andreas Papandreou. As of late August, Simitis began to unravel the profile that he had carefully built up. Following the removal of Costas Laliotis, he embarked on an awkward attempt to replicate PASOK’s former general secretary. However, rather than satisfying lower-income groups, Simitis’s handouts and other vote-grabbing measures – such as the legalization of illegally constructed buildings and of construction on former forestland – triggered social turmoil and prompted further demands by social groups disillusioned with the premier’s past pledges. Simitis promised to purge the economy of corruption but his premiership saw a gigantic increase in political and business entanglement. He pledged economic growth, but was instead responsible for a stock market bubble – only a third of which went into productive investment. An incredible bunch of people who grew up in the same few blocks promenade their boredom around their endless villas, incapable of even enjoying their wealth, and crowd into trendy clubs in the hope of attracting the attention of the appalling gossip columnists of today. It is sad that Simitis’s sole achievement after ruling the country for seven years is that he has become the head of a pathetic group of people pretending to be Greece’s ruling class. Simitis personifies political decline – which will prove irreversible if he continues to rule the country.