Legal irregularities

A few days ago, when government ministers rushed to table a plethora of last-minute bills, we noted that this was a very problematic procedure. We stressed that in the runup to the polls, with deputies working on their re-election rather than busying themselves with attending parliamentary sessions, Parliament should not pass any legislation but rather restrain itself to monitoring activity – and nothing else. We also noted that last-minute bills only serve patronage relations or, at best, they aim to advance the government’s communication objectives. Unabashed, the government went on to table problematic bills that, in some cases, ended up being approved by as few as seven deputies. This irregularity – an irregularity that is visible to the naked eye – resulted in a number of legal monstrosities. First, we witnessed the scrapping of punitive provisions on insider trading. On Wednesday, the government went on to table an amendment for the assignment of auditing functions to private firms. A group of eight deputies tabled an amendment giving a businessman the green light to build tourist accommodation for 5,000 in Sithonia, Halkidiki. The parliamentarians were obviously in the service of Deputy Economy Minister Christos Pachtas, who was impinged by a conflict of interest (he is elected in the same constituency). The favoritism of the procedure was so blatant that it sparked a fiery debate in Parliament, forcing National Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis to make an official statement withdrawing the proposed legislation. Regardless of the outcome, tabling last-minute bills is a discredit to politics and demotes the role and the status of Parliament. New Democracy opposition leader Costas Karamanlis was right to protest and to castigate the acts of the ruling Socialists as a sign of an establishment mentality that refuses to go away, calling on PASOK’s pre-annointed leader George Papandreou to take a stance on the issue. In addition, former conservative Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis was right to charge that the Parliament has been turned into an operetta, and that laws which are voted on and passed by seven deputies are like junta laws that constitute a blatant constitutional irregularity. In the wake of the accusations and disclosures, there is only one thing left for the government to do: Put an end to the passing of last-minute bills. It must withdraw them and spare our political institutions serious embarrassment. Even at the eleventh hour, we must respect the public interest and protect the Parliament’s legislative work.

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