Who speaks for us?

The attack on Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras on Wednesday by the ruling SYRIZA party and Parliament Speaker Zoe Constantopoulou underlines the rapid worsening of the political climate and the pressure under which institutions are functioning during this time of confusion. Until recently, Greece had a single voice – the government, the opposition parties and state institutions all expressed the country’s position to the extent that this was their duty. The central bank and the statistical service, for example, produced reports and data, while the government used these as the basis for its policies and foreign observers were able to follow events. Today, as the country faces severe challenges on all fronts, we see things falling apart at the very highest level. Instead of all the parts functioning as a whole, the government and various institutions are at odds.

The selective relationship between politicians and some institutions began a while back, with the persistent prosecution of the head of the Hellenic Statistical Service in an effort by some to “prove” that Greece was forced into the bailout in 2010 after the service allegedly inflated statistics regarding the public deficit of 2009. Time proved that the figures were correct, and Eurostat and the International Statistical Institute stress that the Greek service’s data are reliable; but this serves only to encourage many in SYRIZA and in its fantasist junior partner, Independent Greeks, in their belief that the world is conspiring against them. It does not seem to enter their minds that they may be mistaken.

This is the basis for the scenario of the day after the unfortunate event that Greece does not reach an agreement with its creditors. “Others” will be to blame. For a while, ministers, deputies and officials of the ruling parties and their supporters have behaved as if they have a monopoly on caring about the country’s future; anyone who disagrees with their policy is branded a “quisling,” a “creditors’ lackey” or a representative of a shadowy “domestic troika.” While the government is incapable of convincing us that a rupture with our partners and creditors would not be catastrophic, it demands silence from those who worry.

It was therefore but a small step for the Parliament speaker to start thinking that she embodies the state. Indeed, the institution of speaker does allow her great publicity and important functions, but not to the point of allowing her to set up and run committees whose sole intention is to come up with findings that she desires and also provide an opportunity for her to make her own policy with attacks on foreign governments, organizations and whichever Greek institutions provoke her wrath. Let us not forget (however apt we are to blame others) that one of the main reasons Greece finds itself in this mess is the folly of improvisation and the lack of accountability of those in power, as well as the undermining of institutions that should have kept them in check.

Such arrogance when our country’s future is at stake and such persistence from people who have never shown any achievements or skills in the past betray a deep disdain for everyone else. And while they disdain us, they claim to be the only ones who can talk on our behalf.

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