OPINION

The bad habits of yesteryear

the-bad-habits-of-yesteryear

Dishonesty and nepotism are deeply embedded in the DNA of the country’s political parties. Apparently this does not just concern just one or two parties. It is a universal problem that persists in spite of the bailout agreements and the advent of (yet) another prime minister who campaigned on a pledge to uphold meritocracy in public sector administration.

We went from the great OpenGov project, to technical assistance from French experts, to streamlining the state’s executive process. However, some invisible force always seems to give the party the upper hand. When it’s time to make a decision, it all seems very convenient: “There’s been a lot of moaning and groaning within the local party organization in [such and such a place], Mr [such and such] is driving us crazy. He’s been calling us every day about…”

These are the typical phrases that I am sure are heard on a daily basis at meetings about who will be appointed director at this hospital or that public utility.

Political candidates, party officials and “backers” of significant party officials anxiously wait to be given an appointment. The announcement comes as salvation for those handling the case. They cease the persistent telephone calls, the moaning stops at party hangouts.

This may work for a certain period of time, as every government enjoys a grace period during which it is mostly immune to criticism. Subsequently, however, frustration with it suddenly grows. The media are rarely to blame for this. Nowadays citizens are well-informed and they get angry when they see failed political candidates being appointed to some post or other which impacts on their well-being. It is something they simply will not tolerate.

The prime minister, like every one of his predecessors, must ensure that the party stays calm. He knows that he will not get very far without a calm party and relatively satisfied deputies. However, what must be non-negotiable is safeguarding the core of his own personal brand.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis was able to take control of the New Democracy party and climb to power because citizens were convinced that he would tidy up the state and rely on people of proven ability in order to govern the country. The government’s picks for hospital directors came as a wake-up call. Now the prime minister must also convey the message that this administration will not revive the bad habits of yesteryear.