The other Karamanlis

Much is being said and written in an attempt to cast slanderous aspersions on Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, alleging that he is indifferent to the country’s problems or that, at best, his efforts are those of an amateur. Any journalist covering his office knows what a hard worker the prime minister is. Over the past two weeks alone, I myself have observed him having dozens of lengthy meetings with his ministers in order to reconcile opposing views and to ensure unity on the bill on public utilities that will lead to improvements in the broader public sector. One might ask why he would spend so much time convincing ministers to agree to a bill that he himself believes to be necessary. After all, it is he who is governing the country and Greece is a country that needs robust, decisive leadership. One would have a point with such an argument, particularly considering the recent internal disputes within the government, open clashes between ministers and hits below the belt which no one can imagine the late Constantine Karamanlis or even Andreas Papandreou tolerating. For better or worse, in Greece we have all dreamt of a strong leader who pounds his fist on the table, whether because of the magnitude of our problems or the fact that we have a Balkan political culture. But our prime minister is a leader of the new era, who has studied abroad and who is not autocratic. His goal is consensus and debate. I know for certain that when his interlocutors demand that he take a firmer line, he smiles and says it is not his way. The question, however, one which Karamanlis has not yet answered, is whether such a loosely knit Cabinet is capable of fighting the relentless web of entangled interests and opening the way for the reforms he plans to carry out.