OPINION

Wanted: A new political elite

Greece’s campaign period has been launched, informally, by Costas Simitis’s government, which, after mobilizing an ensemble of reformist cadres, is now sounding the alarm of a right-wing comeback – as if the country had any traditional right-wing party. However, what is at stake in the coming national elections is not the return of the Right (the followers of conservative New Democracy party know this better than anyone else) but rather the shattering of a repulsive system of political and business entanglements which has taken refuge in the ostensibly reformist government of Prime Minister Costas Simitis. In this light, Simitis’s primary political accomplishment is that he installed an all-powerful oligarchy which made a fortune via a vulgar redistribution of wealth through the stock-market burst, an oligarchy that used up all national wealth and frittered away EU funds in a purported attempt to reform Greece’s infrastructure and organize the 2004 Olympics. This redistribution of wealth has given rise to a new, uneducated ruling class with no sense of its obligations toward the nation, a tasteless elite that has proved unable of even savoring its wealth, let alone leaving its mark upon our national culture. It follows that the real objective in the coming elections is the elimination of this ruling elite along with the mentality that begot it, and not the defeat of the voters of PASOK – a party with a broad popular base that has itself been damaged by the socialist administrations under Simitis. It is true that in the wake of Greece’s accession to the eurozone the government is no longer free to map out an independent economic policy. However, Greece would be in much better shape today had socialist officials not squandered public wealth and EU funds, and had the country not decided to undertake next year’s Olympics. The various opinion polls show that the majority of Greeks anticipate a change in government in the coming elections, whenever these take place. However, no government will be productive should its foundations rest on the ruling class that emerged in the time of Simitis. The fact that this class has amassed an incredible amount of wealth is of secondary significance, as none of its members can flourish outside the framework of public works and contracts. Hence the challenge to the government to be elected in the coming national poll will be to purge the political system of corruption, to resurrect the State, to improve citizen welfare and to shake up the doctrine of a privatization-driven liberal economy which has resulted in this country in nothing but the promotion of business cronies who have squandered the state coffers.