OPINION

Subjugating politicians

In the public domain, talk often substitutes for reality. However, in the ongoing debate over the anti-corruption measures we are faced with a case of political hypocrisy. The identity of media owners is known to everyone; the same applies to their business relations with the State. It is common knowledge that they enter into highly profitable contracts from the government of the time on the basis of political rather than economic criteria. In other words, they offer government officials political support in exchange for preferential access to the public purse. It took numerous scandalous revelations and allegations, as well as public pressure, for the government of Prime Minister Costas Simitis to acknowledge the problem and to discuss measures to deal with it. The new Constitution is marked by a clear intention of political officials to break their sinful ties with business interests, but no one ignored the practical difficulties in implementing the incompatibility principle. Offshore firms are effectively uncontrolled, meaning that the new legislation will also fail to curb entangled political and business interests. It will merely force the «big bosses» to make the necessary settlements for diversionary purposes. What is called for, however, is to shrink the tumor which undermines our democracy rather than just keep up appearances. It would be hypocritical if we all knew that this sort of entanglement in fact continues, albeit in a different form, while we officially boast that, as a state, we have managed to eliminate the phenomenon. The problem actually derives from the power shift away from the political toward the economic domain. This is an international phenomenon, and some have even commented that politicians are gradually turning into employees. This may sound exaggerated but it is not completely groundless. For this reason, and despite the delay, drastic measures have to be taken to restore some sort of equilibrium. The related legislation needs to be supplemented, but the main deficit concerns the lack of adequate resistance from political parties. Politicians tend to avoid the cost entailed in clashing with strong power centers. Things, however, have come to a head and there is no room for opportunism or further delay. The issue does not just concern one party only but the political system itself. If political groups fail to react, they will soon find themselves subordinated to the business world.