Heal divisions, don’t create them

Heal divisions, don’t create them

The Savvidis affair is seriously damaging Alexis Tsipras’s government. It has basically debunked the administration’s narrative that it is different to its predecessors and doesn’t have ties to business interests, while also casting doubt on Tsipras’s argument that his guys are clean and the others are dirty.

The scandalous kid-glove treatment granted the gun-toting Greek-Russian businessman exposes the government and constitutes yet more evidence of the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks coalition’s hypocrisy.

It brings to mind the outrageously anti-European sentiment expressed during negotiations with international creditors in the early days of the coalition and the volte-face that resulted in the third destructive memorandum, which wreaked havoc on the economy and harmed the most vulnerable.

It also brings to mind the administrative inefficiency that the governing coalition has displayed on almost every issue it has had a hand in: from the recent fiasco in calculating hundreds of thousands of new pensions, the trouble for commuters with the new electronic ticket system and the crashed platform for subsidies to make homes more energy-efficient, to its failure to handle national issues in a serious manner, to run a competition for television licenses and to control an oil spill that was allowed to pollute Athens’s entire southern coast.

What with one thing and another, the public is frustrated and disappointed, something that is also reflected in public opinion polls: New Democracy’s lead over ruling SYRIZA has remained steady at 10 percentage points for months, with conservative chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis seen as the more suitable leader.

Instead of making an effort to seek consensus and create a climate of cooperation in such a difficult political situation, the government is responding with polarization and division. It is persecuting its rivals (the Novartis affair is a case in point and it is about to be followed by more allegations concerning party funding and arms procurements) and adopting baseless accusations of bribery in order to sully their reputations – without a final verdict looking likely before the next elections.

What’s worse is that the Savvidis affair is also encouraging another type of division: between Greece’s north, which is home to his PAOK team, and the south, which is viewed as privileged by comparison. Any tension that builds up along such lines could cause great damage to the country’s political and social fabric, so the political leadership needs to start acting responsibly.

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