The enemy within

Americans say that politics is all about personal or regional interests. Fair enough. However, conservative officials in Greece seem to have taken that notion a step too far. The conservative prime minister, Costas Karamanlis, meets government officials in his office, supposedly to consult with them in strict confidence. And yet we so often see ministers chatting away with journalists as soon as they leave Maximos Mansion, the government headquarters. It’s amazing how they don’t even wait until they get back to their respective offices but instead feel free to report on the meeting and gossip about their colleagues right there on the sidewalk outside the mansion. Greek politicians’ strong penchant for leaking sensitive information to the press is just one of the problems besetting our body politic. A second problem is their «all against all» and «every man for himself» mentality. Senior politicians do not hesitate to phone journalists to undermine their colleagues in the administration. Such personal attacks are godsends for journalists constantly on the lookout for friction or rival interests within the ruling party. Greek politics boils down to a pathetic sequence of petty ambitions, the angst of re-election and all manner of personal insecurities. A third problem is epitomized by the following cliche: «Relax, the whole thing will be history in just three or four days.» It’s the typical failure to notice a crisis in its offing, of failing to contain the damage in time. The government’s tardiness following the Chinook crash or the wire-tapping scandal are only two of many examples. It’s hard coming to terms with the sight of politicians who would die to see their name in political gossip columns and then act blase about the pension funds scandal. I honestly don’t know what the late conservative prime minister Constantine Karamanlis would have done in a situation like this – whether he would choose to reprimand his ministers or pay a surprise visit to one of the government ministries. The DNA of politicians has definitely changed over the past years and so has the quality of political staff. But something has to give. New Democracy looks nothing like a party just a few months before a general election. Three, perhaps four ministers are working while the rest are trading off-the-record innuendoes and accusations. No one seems willing to step up and defend the government in public. Changing the current political landscape in the coming months will prove a daunting challenge for the Karamanlis administration.

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