Lust for power

Kimon Koulouris, currently fighting the potato price war, was asked if he would like to become premier, press reports said. «Anyone who denies having such ambitions is naive, foolish and stupid,» the deputy minister for development was quoted as saying. Koulouris was probably referring to the 300 MPs who, he believes, clearly took up a political career with an eye on the highest state office. Or perhaps the minister was just speaking for the vast majority of the population who claim they could sort out society’s problems if they only had a chance to be prime minister. Whichever is true in this case, Koulouris’s response demonstrates that lust for power is, perhaps, the most serious malaise of our political system. A lust for power has nothing to do with plain, legitimate ambition, which, being grounded in self-knowledge, usually knows clear bounds and goals. Rather, it is an endemic problem that prevents one from seeing oneself as an equal member of a team, from obeying a superior and from serving a collective purpose. Instead, one feels driven to pursue a personal strategy and exploit every intermediate office on their way to the top. Greece’s recent political history illustrates that in-party crises, rebellions, government failures and leader overthrows tend to be the result of politicians’ lust for power. The phenomenon has gained new intensity with the departure of the great statesmen of the last 30 years. A growing number of active deputies are starting to feel «naive,» «foolish» or «stupid» for not challenging Simitis, ND leader Costas Karamanlis or Synaspismos’s Nikos Constantopoulos. As with theater productions, Greek politics no longer produce actors and stooges, but sidelined protagonists and aspiring troupe leaders. The difference is that in the theater, power lust is satisfied by establishing plenty of theater companies. Similar attempts in politics have failed to attract any audience.