A tough battle ahead

The government’s war against entangled interests is on. But those who feel threatened by the prime minister’s anti-corruption campaign are mounting a counteroffensive in a bid to create cracks in the administration and weaken Costas Karamanlis’s political will to clean up the political system. The entangled interests expect that, facing crucial economic and foreign policy issues, the government will soon run out of fuel and thus be incapable of sustaining its war on enmeshed interests. The conservative administration, the theory goes, will eventually have to come to terms with the status quo. For sure, the premier does not underestimate the capabilities of the entangled interests but still, according to his close aides, deems this a battle he will win because his desire to uproot political and business entanglement is also shared by the great majority of voters who backed his pledge. Moreover, he believes that compromising with these forces would signal a humiliating political defeat for his government and himself personally. It would also be a defeat, he thinks, for Greek politics in general. The entangled interests think that by forcing the New Democracy administration to retreat and concede defeat they will thereby demonstrate to Greece’s other political parties that any bids from previous governments to challenge their power within the context of Greece’s political system were doomed from the start. Using their media cronies, these power centers are sending signals to Socialist opposition leader George Papandreou to make him understand it would not be in his political interest to ignore their particular sensitivities as they clash with the ruling party. Given the clear political will of the conservative administration to deal a severe blow to the power of entangled interests, the latter will go to any lengths to undermine the government’s plans. This was clearly reflected in their fervent reactions to the government’s presentation of the draft law on the so-called major shareholder and to the parliamentary investigation into the arms procurements conducted during the tenure of Socialist Premier Costas Simitis. Entangled interests are right to believe this is a life-or-death battle. Should the Karamanlis administration stay on course, the very future of these interests will be in doubt. Regardless of any flaws or imperfections in the government bill on the major shareholder, and regardless of the findings of the parliamentary probe into the arms deals signed by the PASOK governments, it becomes clear that the rosy days for certain barons are over. At the same time, the opposition leader appears unwilling to stonewall government efforts to purge the system of corruption. Attacking the government on this front is not at the top of Papandreou’s agenda, a fact which makes these barons even more uncomfortable. Faced with this conundrum, it comes as no surprise that certain circles of political and business entanglement have been trying to create rifts in the ranks of the conservative and Socialist parties. Their aim is to cultivate uncertainty on the political scene by deflecting attention away from the fight against graft and corruption and by putting emphasis on secondary matters. Confrontation on the issue of entangled interests is set to intensify. Some of the battles that are being waged are likely to turn even nastier. It seems likely that these battles will drag in people who from time to time have emerged from the shadows of Athens’s own brand of political underworld whenever certain special interest groups are having a hard time.