In the zone of immunity

Sadly, relations between the ruling conservatives and opposition party PASOK are at a low, mainly because of the Socialists’ penchant for scandalmongering that is encouraged, if not guided, by the pro-PASOK media. George Papandreou’s panic over the prospect of yet another election defeat and the greed of PASOK’s business acolytes have created a very polarized climate. Senior government ministers have come under fire from PASOK officials making unfounded allegations which then make headlines in the affiliated press. Nevertheless, a couple of ministers seem to be treading in the zone of immunity, attracting praise rather than criticism. One of these is Giorgos Souflias, the conservative public works minister, whose every meeting with the prime minister is portrayed, by that same media, as proof of his growing influence in the top echelons of New Democracy. It makes one wonder whether these people would rather have Souflias than Papandreou for a future premier. The reason the Socialists look on Souflias with favor is not just that he was dropped by ND in 1997 or that he flirted with Costas Simitis. It has more to do with the fact that, as minister, he has full knowledge of the budget overruns and shoddy construction that took place during PASOK’s rule. But Souflias has never done anything to expose his Socialist predecessors – in fact, he has often congratulated Costas Laliotis and Vasso Papandreou. Furthermore, Souflias has objected to key government policies such as the main shareholder legislation and deficit revision. Sources say that when Deputy Economy Minister Petros Doukas requested evidence on Yiannis Papaconstantinou, PASOK’s general manager and former chief of the National Road Fund who was forced to resign this week, Souflias’s ministry turned down the request. All this should explain the phenomenon or at least raise serious questions.

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