OPINION

End of the truce

The Olympic Truce is over and political life is returning to the natural rhythm of conflict, as a healthy representative system of government demands. Transparency in weapons procurements, the severing of the link between private television stations and powerful business interests that do business with the State, and, perhaps later, an investigation into the stock exchange scandal have become the major political issues on the agenda. If the «catharsis» instituted by the New Democracy government of Constantine Mitsotakis (a brief parenthesis in PASOK’s 20-year run) had not failed to clean up the country’s political life, Greece’s citizens would not be looking at the present efforts with skepticism, with the danger of this becoming once again nothing but sound and fury in Parliament. That said, it must be made clear that the call for the reform of public life is demanded by all and the question that must be answered is whether the political system can actually cleanse itself. In recent years, especially after the fall of the communist regimes that functioned as a bogeyman for the West, the political leadership (in Europe, at least) ceased to be the decisive source of power. Gradually, politicians began to adopt economic concepts that they did not understand sufficiently or apply effectively, as politics and economics are very different – if not irreconcilable – activities. In Greece, where everything gets distorted, the power of business interests did not come from their own activities but through businessmen doing business with the government of the time. In short, business activity was to a great extent as dependent on the State as was the state sector, and it is this situation that created the entangled relationship and the emergence of the Greek businessman as a political player. There is no question that there are ties between economic interests and the political leadership in every era and under every political system. But there is no country in which businessmen set up their own private television stations and made their power felt even on local parliamentary representatives – leading to 150 provincial stations. Furthermore, running for Parliament became so expensive that its costs could not be covered by the salaries of not just one four-year term but many such terms. In effect, the entire system of political survival leads to corruption. We have seen the end of the era in which a whole family would tremble at the thought that one of its members planned to enter politics as this most often led to their economic downfall. Today, for some it is enough that they simply become politicians to significantly improve their financial standing. This does not mean that the situation should be seen fatalistically. Businessmen who feed at the state trough, who tend to have political support, are not as strong as one might think. They draw their strength from the State’s tolerance and those in the political system who are entwined with them. All that is needed is a government that will truly decide to clean up politics and public life and isn’t only after creating impressions. In this sense, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s credibility is at stake.