When party cadre talk turns petty

The public was stunned yesterday by a declaration from Costas Poupakis, head of the New Democracy unionists (DAKE) in the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE), that President Karolos Papoulias «is not as democratic as his predecessor» and «risks being accused of not being able to forget his political origins.» This impropriety by the representative of the ruling party’s union movement lies partly in his attempt to involve the president in petty partisan intrigue on behalf of union bureaucrats, since Poupakis lost his temper because the GSEE president didn’t take Poupakis along when he visited Papoulias (something which is of little interest to the people). The impropriety goes much deeper. It is yet another malicious expression of a most unhealthy mentality being cultivated by the leaders of the ruling New Democracy party at their headquarters on Rigillis Street. Irrespective of the unacceptable nature of the DAKE representative’s statements, what is more serious is that Poupakis and others of his ilk seem convinced that it is their job to participate in political life – not within their given capacity but as self-appointed arbiters of public life and state institutions. Here’s what occurs regularly: Every time the government makes a major decision – and sometimes even before it does – the ND secretary takes a stand on the issue at hand, even occasionally trying to outflank the government. Certain circles on Rigillis Street seem to have misinterpreted the way political parties operate within a democracy. Instead, party cadres in various sectors are making arrogant demands and trying to play a part in shaping political life. These perceptions form the root of the absurd phenomenon whereby the DAKE representative sees himself as the appropriate judge of the democratic credentials or the political neutrality of the head of state. The problem is a serious one. The prime minister would do well to take steps to deal with it, since these kinds of activities by party cadres with an infantile grasp of politics distorts – and very negatively – the government’s exercise of its duty. Ultimately, it causes considerable discontent among the people.