Crony capitalism still the rule

As the government – and parliamentary – term draws to a close, the Socialist administration gave us a tragicomic example of the establishment mentality permeating the party. The weekend crisis demonstrated that PASOK exercises power in such way as to take care of its cronies and supporters, perpetuating relations of patronage. The government abuses democratic institutions and parliamentary procedures, mocking and humiliating Parliament as well as its own deputies. Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Christos Pachtas authorized a private company to deforest thousands of acres in the area of Halkidiki (which is his constituency) to build tourist homes. Pachtas managed to have a tailor-made amendment passed by nine deputies who attended the parliamentary session and who now, after the disclosure of the scandal, are unabashedly claiming that they had no idea what they were voting for. Alas, we have never plummeted to such depths before. The individual set to benefit from the scandalous amendment was no stranger to the government. It was the same government crony who, in exchange for an undisclosed amount of money, organized the costly European Union summit meeting in Halkidiki last June. This is a blatant case of political and business entanglement aimed at serving private interests. A member of Parliament and former deputy education minister, who is known to have ties with the businessman set to benefit from the controversial resort development bill, is said to have played a leading role in the exchange. Pachtas resigned late on Friday while another nine deputies who signed the tailor-made proposal were held responsible for the scandal and were fired from the ruling Socialist party. However, these deputies should not be the only ones to bear responsibility. In fact, they acted in line with the overall climate of trade-offs and disregard for institutions that has permeated PASOK over the previous years. Perhaps this incredible incident was needed to reinforce the democratic demand for change, a demand whose outcome will be judged in the coming ballot. This is not an ordinary government change – a usual procedure in other systems of parliamentary democracy. This is about restoring democratic institutions and the ethical values of politics.

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