A tangled web

Knowledgeable citizens will have noticed that during his electoral campaign, George Papandreou has made no reference to the crucial issue of corruption. Questioned about the issue during his interview with Kathimerini, PASOK’s new leader gave a very diplomatic response. He described political and business entanglement as a neologism and avoided making any critical comments on the harmful, sleaze-ridden system that has taken root in previous years. Papandreou’s stance is not unfounded. Rather, it is stipulated by very specific political objectives that do not just concern the campaign period. Papandreou makes no secret of the fact that he is the continuation of Costas Simitis. This not only refers to his policies but also to the power system that consistently backed his predecessor. It is the same system, the same vested interests which played an active role in orchestrating the party’s leadership switch and which have now thrown their weight behind the new leader. They also think they have a dog in this fight, as the prolongation of PASOK’s rule will also protract their favorable access to state contracts. However, even if New Democracy wins the elections (which is the most likely outcome), their close ties with PASOK’s new chairman will provide them with ample political coverage. For their part, the barons of entangled interests do nothing but chase their private objectives. The issue concerns Papandreou’s stance, given that even PASOK’s grassroots supporters know that graft allegations are grounded and that widespread corruption undermines the public good, healthy competition and democracy itself. Powerful economic interests that harbor close ties with the political administration in order to extract lavish contracts have always been around. What is new is that powerful moguls have brought the influential media under their control, and the weight has subsequently shifted from politics to the economy. Politicians are becoming dependent on economic interests. Simitis did nothing to stave off this trend. He actually fed it, gaining unprecedented and blatant support from most media. His anti-corruption legislation was introduced as a pretext and never really got to the bone of the problem. In his first steps after PASOK’s decision to switch leaders was announced, Papandreou hinted that he would shake off the interests that now hold his party to ransom. Unfortunately, Papandreou failed to keep up and he soon compromised. But similar remarks were absent in his later speeches. And when Kathimerini posed the issue, he chose instead to duck the question.

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