Debates in Parliament are about politicians being held to account. This is a basic element of democracy from when it was created. It is about politicians being accountable to those who elected them and informing them honestly and clearly. This means keeping sophisms and fireworks to a minimum. This is not an obligation that weighs just on the government, but also on the opposition.
However, is this need really satisfied by the type of parliamentary discussion that we have become accustomed to? Anyone responding positively to this question would have to show enormous good will. It would also only be relevant to what, for numerous reasons, seems to be a tiny minority that actually watches these debates.
One way of judging is the evaluation of the debates provided by the party spin doctors, who rush to provide ratings of each side’s performance before the discussion has even finished. It is the same method that is used to respond to statements issued by rival parties, which means that the responses are released almost at the same time as the original statements. “We thrashed them 5-0,” “Our leader crushed theirs” and “They had no place to hide” are among the assessments we have become used to.
What is the purpose of this exercise? Are they trying to give their friends in media a line to follow? This seems unnecessary. The media has its own partisan manner and identifies the winners and losers based on the outlets’ own preconceptions, preferences and obligations.
These fierce debates in Parliament, where issues that have nothing to do with the matter in hand are often raised, do not take place so the media can then provide some congratulatory or disparaging giant headlines the next day. In fact, they are the products of such headlines.
Monday's debate about the arms that the government had decided to sell to Saudi Arabia would not have happened, nor would it have been needed, if all those who proposed the transaction (the coalition as a whole, not just the catastrophic Defense Minister Panos Kammenos) and all those from the opposition who approved it spent a little more time thinking about the ethical dimension, as they had a duty to.
What are we doing selling ammunition to the Wahhabis, who would probably use them against Yemen, which they have imposed an asphyxiating blockade on and have threatened with famine and disease? Weapons to those who have disregard for every aspect of human rights and who commit war crimes? These aspects only entered the discussion at a very late stage. This, however, is the real scandal.