Tip of the iceberg

The cynicism in former Deputy Education Minister Yiannis Anthopoulos’s concession that he forged the signatures of three deputies on a controversial land development bill and in his remark that he did so following assurances by a senior executive of the interested company came as a shock to the public – even to those who do not nourish any illusions. Corruption has come out of the shadows and become a tangible reality, complete with surnames. The Simitis era is drawing to a close, but the malodorous scandals remain. It is indicative of PASOK’s establishment mentality that it has made an orchestrated attempt – with the help of pro-government media – to convince the public that everyday revelations were but groundless slander by the opposition. Premier Costas Simitis has repeatedly assured the public that everything is on track and that there is nothing to worry about. Simitis is an experienced politician and it would do him injustice if we assumed that he had no knowledge of the scandals that took place during his eight-year tenure at the helm of the country. The allegations were there, but the prime minister chose to rebuff them by saying that «anyone who has evidence should take it to the prosecutor.» In other words, Simitis would reduce the forest to isolated trees and thereby avoid taking any remedial action. No doubt graft was there long before Simitis came to power. However, his tenure saw corruption soaring to new heights, shaking the foundations of our democratic system. PASOK’s establishment mentality did not only beget an arrogant posture. It also increased the tendency to cynicism and amoralism among many government cadres and state functionaries. Wrongdoing and profiteering were not far off. Pressing calls for a leadership switch in the runup to the polls were mostly prompted by the specter of election defeat. But the current of protest vote was enhanced by the Socialists’ moral degeneration. PASOK, however, is not only the 10,000 officials who have a share in the spoils of power. The party also consists of the millions of regular members and center-left voters who deserve better political representation. It is no coincidence that the leadership change brought relief and generated big expectations. Papandreou’s modern political demeanor originally created optimism but soon crashed into crude reality. The lightning reaction of the new leader averted the worst, but the political momentum engendered by the leadership switch still suffered a serious blow. Even those who allowed themselves to be carried away on the crest of initial enthusiasm over the change are now coming back down to earth with a bump. The Pachtas amendment was not an isolated incident but the tip of the iceberg.

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