Hands off the cookie jar

The prime minister’s strict warning to his ministers recently should have been enough to ease internal government dissent, which is making the government increasingly seem like an orchestra out of tune. But it didn’t. In fact, certain ministers went on making controversial comments, frustrating the premier’s efforts to restore lost cohesion. A bill should be made public only after it has been stamped by the Inner Cabinet. Education Minister Marietta Giannakou’s handling of the university assessment bill violated that order. Most importantly, no conservative official seemed to care about her having breached the code of ethics. Even the prime minister, the purported guardian of the government’s smooth performance, failed to react. The blunder was obviously not seen as such. We are not just faced with ministers’ mistakes and omissions; the roots of the problem go deeper – in fact down to the absence of any bedrock of principles on certain procedures. Reports of immoral conduct by conservative cadres, such as the allegations against an interior minister official, are even more troubling and present Costas Karamanlis with a major political challenge. Making the war on corruption the cornerstone of New Democracy’s political manifesto, Karamanlis has cultivated great expectations among the public. These expectations actually helped him ride to power. People these days expect more than they used to. Should Karamanlis appear to put up with such behavior and renege on his pledges, he is most certain to lose the game. A strong reaction, on the other hand, would send a strong signal to the ever cheekier conservative cadres who are tempted to thrust their hands into the cookie jar. Corruption knows no political boundaries. Cases of weak conscience and self-interest cut across the political system.