System seems shot with sleaze

The recent survey conducted by SKAI radio station and the VPRC polling company provided an upsetting confirmation of public disillusionment over the persistent lack of transparency throughout Greece’s political system. The overwhelming majority of the respondents said that no substantial progress has been made in combating corruption. In fact, a large percentage said the problem had become worse. Nearly half, 47 percent, believe the extent of corruption has not lessened since the election of the New Democracy government, while 32 percent believe that the number of cases has actually gone up. Only 16 percent of the respondents expressed optimism that graft has subsided. For sure, opinion polls say less about the problem than about people’s perceptions of it. On the other hand, popular views are never unfounded; after all, where there is smoke there is usually fire. Repeated revelations of fraud and first-hand experience of shady dealings have consolidated this impression, which does not seem to be affected by political changeovers or partisan preferences. In other words, corruption is considered to be systemic. Virtually all politicians – from the Socialist officials who nourished graft for some 20 years to their conservative successors who have failed to crack down on the phenomenon during the past two – are faced with people’s perception that in this country, corruption is king. In the eyes of most, corruption is not limited to illegal dealings but goes as far as to distort the law itself. Politicians often fail to grasp the impact of popular perceptions. People who believe that the whole system is corroded, that there is no respect for the rules of the game or that these are manipulated by corrupt players, also believe that politicians have no courage to make an effort, make false promises, and lack creative inspiration. As long as personal experience continues to fuel popular disappointment, there will be no fertile ground for corrections, let alone big changes. Even minor adjustments demand a positive approach – and the impression of persistent, widespread corruption leaves little hope for that.