OPINION

No, minister

Suggestions by sources close to Giorgos Souflias that the public works minister is opposed to the new draft law intended to block media barons from state procurements constitute an act of political folly, both in terms of substance as well as timing. Rarely has a senior minister been at odds with the government of which he is a member – especially on one of its priorities. The government’s «major shareholder» bill is the legal product of a clear pre-election pledge made by the ruling party and the prime minister personally to purge the political system of corruption and so-called «entangled interests.» In fact, the conservative pledge for transparency was one of the main factors behind New Democracy’s sweeping victory in the March election. Souflias was back then elected under the ND banner, and fell behind its electoral platform. As a result, his recent undermining of the conservatives’ pre-election commitments – worse, on an issue that has to do with safeguarding democratic institutions and cleaning up the sleaze-ridden political system – despite the fact that he signed the bill concerned raises questions about the minister’s political honesty as well as doubts over his ulterior motives. Disagreements between a government and a minister are a problem but by no means extraordinary in a democracy. To be sure, there is only one solution: Unless the dissenting minister changes his mind or those of his government peers, he should leave the ministerial council. Anything else is bound to create a crisis inside the government and project the image of a feeble and divided administration. Instead of seeing an exchange of arguments and political views, what we have had over the previous days has been nothing more than common gossip and whispers between various associates. Confrontation on a fundamental political issue is taking place via comments leaked to the press by various sources. This situation is damaging the government and the political system per se. Above all, it is an insult to the intelligence of a public who are watching with disgust and with a feeling of betrayal as they voted for ND in hope of greater transparency. Differences in opinion are legitimate as long as they lead to agreement which in turn translates into action. The leaks from the various sources and the government’s expression of annoyance in response do not constitute dialogue or politics. They are a sign of decay and political folly. The ball is in the prime minister’s court.