Courageous decision

The tabling of the bill on the «main shareholder» constitutes an act of political courage on behalf of Greece’s conservative government. The decision signals Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s determination to clash with the so-called «entangled interests» and to do away with the regime that these have imposed, creating a sleaze-ridden state apparatus. A war on deeply rooted vested interests is a war worth waging. This is about more than just healing an ailment; it touches on the very functioning of the country’s democratic institutions. The entanglement of political officials with business interests has greatly distorted democratic institutions by neutralizing the power of political leaders, who eventually yield to the whims of powerful business groups – a fact that was confirmed by the ignominious and dishonorable end to the political career of former Socialist Prime Minister Costas Simitis. No reformist or modernist-minded program can be implemented when the political leaders who envisage or promise it are held ransom to economic interests. Of course, the war on corruption and entangled interests cannot be won unless the government is determined to engage in battles – and some very tough ones indeed. Those involved in entangled interests will do everything to defend themselves. Some early signs of a coordinated resistance are already evident, and they are expected to intensify as the government refuses to succumb to their pressure and demands. The prime minister has made it clear that he has no intention of backing down. He has indicated that he will do all it takes to prevent his administration from being reduced to a pawn of business interests and thereby reliving the fate of his Socialist predecessor. Without doubt, a victory on the issue of intertwined interests would be less complicated and more imposing if PASOK opposition leader George Papandreou was willing to fulfill his pre-election commitments by falling behind the government’s campaign against graft and conflicting interests. Besides, his stand on that issue will also show the extent to which he meant what he said about radically transforming his party. The statements yesterday by PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis about a «new vicious circle» leave little room for optimism. Such remarks only highlight PASOK’s strong interlinkages with business interests. It remains to be seen whether Papandreou possesses the moral and political clout to overcome his party’s dependency.