OPINION

Political decline

A couple of television programs on the issue of illegal gambling made the country’s political world lose its head. At the same time, the attempt to defend democratic institutions highlighted the vulnerability of the political system – a system whose stability has often been praised by political groups and their leaders. Strong economic groups aiming to promote their interests have always existed, but they succeeded in undermining the political system of the time only if this was in a state of decline and disintegration. It is simply not the activity of non-institutional agents – whose existence was hinted at by all political parties – that is the question here. It concerns the inability of a constitutionally all-powerful prime minister to tackle this major problem. On the other hand, journalists and the media aspiring to manipulate political developments in order to serve their own objectives have always existed in all countries. But their goal was only fulfilled when the political system lost control, thereby giving them the opportunity to promote themselves into the main players in, and arbiters of, political developments. But last week’s crisis was not a bolt from the blue. It has its own sad history. The view which has come to prevail in the post-1974 period, and particularly after the electoral victory of the PASOK Socialist party in 1981, is that politics is a participatory process – to the extent of undoing any traditional political framework. However, so deep a democratization of political life could only be based on the lowest possible common denominator. But when this type of democratization of political life goes to extremes, as happened in Greece, then the governors become the governed, forced to comply with the will of certain powerful social groups or individuals, whether through bribery or blackmail. Needless to say, this would never have come to pass had groups of politicians not utilized the services or talents of various individuals or the media in order to eliminate political opponents or party rivals. However, there can be no representative political system outside the framework of a hierarchical society. This framework came down in Greece in April 1967; the military dictatorship turned against the military elite, the parliamentary government and the king. But the disruption of all sense of hierarchy was completed through democratic procedures and the popular vote when PASOK rose to power. The incorporation into the system of individuals who had been marginalized for decades has allegedly increased the stability of the political domain. It has also resulted in the formation of dangerous, uncontrollable forces in society. At the same time, the prevalent economic mentality has raised the Greek plutocrat who has made money fast, and often with state help, into a role model. The current crisis in the political system that Prime Minister Costas Simitis has been called upon to tackle is the consequence of the dismantling of the traditional framework in the name of personal affirmation and of individual fulfillment. The individual is only accountable to himself, his only goal success. The enemies of the political system and the institutions are the creations of the very individuals who are now trying to control the situation. For this reason, their success is extremely doubtful.