Right priorities

Throughout the pre-election period, Costas Karamanlis steered clear of any connection with business interests, even though the very election outcome in March was at stake. The chief challenger was rewarded by the Greek electorate, who voted overwhelmingly in favor of his conservative New Democracy party. As prime minister, Karamanlis has repeated his pledge to take legislative action needed to purge public life of corruption and to curtail the pervasive influence of business moguls in the body politic. Back then, few seemed to take Karamanlis’s statements seriously. The prime minister’s strong words reportedly spoken in a Monastiraki souvlaki restaurant last week caused an unprecedented stir. People feigned shock and surprise at this repetition, in an ordinary taverna, of his clearly stated, official position of previous years. These included individuals whose behavior in government over the past eight years constituted an insult to common decency, those who entertained themselves lavishly and openly, their actions and very presence being a blight upon Greek society. There should have been no surprise at his remarks. It is common knowledge that a group of people who permeate the higher echelons of the country’s political, economic and social system is systematically trying to downgrade Greece’s public life to the level of the coffee shop. What Greek society is now witnessing is the impunity, insolence and audacity that grew out of the practices of the Socialist governments of Costas Simitis, who allowed the political discourse to deteriorate. The Greek people reacted to this by voting PASOK out of power and giving Karamanlis the mandate to purge the system established under his predecessor. Success for Karamanlis’s conservative party will only come about by hammering out a clear ideological framework in stark opposition to the managerial approach of their predecessors. For the sake of ephemeral material goals and in the name of individualism, that approach had sacrificed every sense of tradition and responsibility toward society. This does not mean we should establish a statist system or clamp down on entrepreneurship. It means drawing a clear line between two distinct activities among which politics is supreme, simply because it means being held accountable to the collectivity and not to a few hundred medium-sized firms.