Few people actually care about the whole TV license issue. Only a small minority know what the Council of State is and what it does, or the details of the games the government is playing with the Constitution and the institutions. Even fewer are interested in knowing, as they are consumed by the problems of day-to-day life, some just trying to survive. Perhaps that is why the government is going to such lengths to keep the issue in the headlines. Maybe it is using the TV license debacle to divert attention away from its decisions in other areas that are a lot more important to the citizens. But is that really the case?
The issue of the broadcasting licenses has become deeply political because of the government, which from the outset politicized the whole process in a bid to manipulate the news and, possibly, entertainment. That was evident in every single move it made, until it eventually came up against the Council of State’s ruling – whose exact wording we still don’t know – and ended in political failure and chaos.
At a first glance, the government appears to have readjusted its objectives after the ruling and is scrambling to contain the fallout by resorting to various wily ruses to side-step the court’s decision. On the one hand, it wants to ensure that the political failure does not become an outright defeat with unpredictable consequences, and, on the other, it wants to restore some order inside the ruling SYRIZA party so that it can protect Minister of State Nikos Pappas, who came up with the TV licensing law that started all the trouble.
There is no doubt that Pappas’s handling of the entire affair has caused friction in the coalition and in SYRIZA, to the extent that it was noticed by those on the outside and prompted the need for some face-saving action. Again, though, is that all?
The stance adopted by Pappas and also by Speaker Nikos Voutsis in Parliament on Thursday suggests a few things. First, that Pappas has the firm support of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Second, that Tspiras has forced the party to fall in line with the “tough stance” over the TV licenses and to disregard the Council of State’s ruling, thus the change in Voutsis’s tone. Third, that the key political objective has been readjusted once more to a drive to isolate New Democracy, something that the government believes has been partially achieved by the fact that neither PASOK nor To Potami fully backed the main opposition’s line over the whole TV license affair.
The new question that arises, therefore, is whether the government is paving the way for elections and a full-out clash with the opposition. But again, is that all? Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t.