Reforms and reshuffles

The results of recent opinion polls – for what they’re worth – were not at all encouraging for the country’s two main political parties, even though both ruling New Democracy and opposition PASOK made gallant efforts to extract some kind of positive conclusions in order to justify the political choices of their leadership. But the essential thing is that citizens’ faith in the two main parties has dropped considerably compared to the percentage points both parties garnered in the country’s last general elections; and as a result there is a very real threat of political instability because, due to the existing electoral system, it is quite possible that we will no longer have a one-party government. In view of this, it is hardly surprising that all we have left is the hope that certain reforms (that is, certain changes that were implemented in the wake of European Commission decisions) will contribute toward the government gaining a steadier footing; meanwhile, the opposition will do all it can to maximize voters’ disenchantment in a push to regain power in the elections scheduled for 2008. The ND government’s actions until now have proven that the state of affairs it inherited from its predecessor PASOK was clearly less tragic than had been anticipated; moreover, the new administration did not have adequately experienced cadres to effectively tackle the current challenges due to the party’s long absence from power. As a result, there have been constant manifestations of incompetence and irregularities, and many political commentators and analysts have been promoting the idea of a widespread reshuffle, which would, ostensibly, inject new life into the government’s ranks. But a reshuffle without any change in policy is merely an expression of confusion; and the current period will continue to be joyless as we await the completion of reforms that have had a negative impact a significant proportion of citizens. Rightly or wrongly, those ministers who have been pushing through the reforms have, in one way or another, become accustomed to their portfolios. Therefore, during the process of implementation of these reforms, it is hardly logical that these ministers’ responsibilities be transferred to individuals who may have political acumen but need to be familiarized with their subject – there is no time for this. And so it appears that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will make use of the cadres currently at his disposal to complete ongoing reforms to the economy sector, unless the behavior of one his associates enrages him to such a degree that he is forced to remove him from his post – a likelihood that seems rather remote at present. When these reforms are finally completed, when the ministers of the current government have to face the consequences of their daily political wear and tear, when the time comes for a more positive outlook to be projected, then it will be rational to expect a renewal or reshuffle of the faces we have come to recognize in our government. Some changes will already have been carried out by next fall, if Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis is elected as mayor of Athens, as is expected; a new health minister will have to be chosen and current Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis will undertake some ministerial post – probably in the Culture Ministry. But enough of such speculation about prime ministerial intentions which, after all, have yet to be voiced. The problem is not with the specific individuals in various government posts but with the evident inability of the system as a whole to forge policies and which contents itself with imposing certain reforms that past Greek administrations had agreed to adopt as a member state of the EU, or which they decided upon along with fellow member states, as they flatter themselves to believe. The process of change is evident across the EU; in Greece however, so-called reform produced widespread corruption in public life, the theft of citizens’ savings following the stock market bubble of 1999 and entrepreneurial incompetence, as in countless cases, the capital acquired from the stock market was wasted in a most tragic way. In Greece’s case, a lack of creativity on the political level was combined with a miserable absence of governing ability.