Heavy legacy

I know that both the prime minister and opposition leader get irritated when they are reminded of the way in which one’s uncle and the other’s father used to deal with serious problems, party disputes or how they treated their aides, ministers and so on. Although Greece has a tradition of patricide and most children of politicians are jealous of their successful fathers, it would be unfair not to acknowledge that Costas Karamanlis and George Papandreou act in a political and social environment significantly different from that in which their fathers ruled. Times are different, problems have become more complex and society more mature but also more volatile. All this means that the two leaders have to operate differently. For example, when the late Constantine Karamanlis was to head a ministerial council or even when expected to inspect a public work, everyone treated him with awe. When Andreas Papandreou was in the opposition, building the party that would soon sweep to power, he ruled with an iron fist: When the first faction emerged to challenge him, he ejected two-thirds of his cadres. Now it’s common knowledge that many ministers and even public utility (DEKO) managers do not bother informing Karamanlis of their decisions. Rather than axing them, he had to set up his own inspection body to avoid problems such as last year’s structured bonds scandal. Similarly, Papandreou waited until he lost the September 16 national elections before he took on Evangelos Venizelos, although he knew that a group inside the party had been undermining him for the past year. What am I getting at? Most people want the two chiefs to be more resolute as leaders – as well as stricter monitoring of their aides. Given the morality of an honest and educated politician, he has every right to dismiss incompetent ministers or inept chairmen. It’s his government. But bad government is everyone’s problem.