The right politician

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that there are three types of politicians. The first are complacent politicians who tend to avoid hot potatoes. They never do anything before first considering the political cost. Many of Greece’s transport politicians fall into this category. They took charge of Olympic Airlines and the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE), two of the most troubled state-owned companies, only to see debts grow. They appointed people and raised wages without considering the rising bill. This type of politician has thrived also thanks to the growth of private television and access to friendly journalists who take care of their image. A second type of politician is the one who is capable of convincing you he is doing one thing when in fact he is doing something else. The late Andreas Papandreou, for example, assured people that the US military bases would go when he was actually negotiating the opposite. Some people admire these so-called charismatic politicians. The third, rather rare, type is the category of responsible politicians. These latter do not shy away from problems. Constantine Karamanlis closed his ears to protests when he pushed for Greece’s membership of the EU. Costas Simitis did the same before backpedaling on social security reform. The problem is that few of them acknowledge the need for reform. Most snigger at the fate of former Education Minister Marietta Giannakou or the declining popularity of Employment Minister Vassilis Magginas and his counterpart at the Ministry of Transport, Costis Hatzidakis. The only consolation is that the current premier wants to go down in history as a Type 3 politician. Free from the angst of re-election, Costas Karamanlis seems to be saying, «I will do whatever it takes to change things.» Politics is like a major pile-up and no one can be sure if and where they will succeed or fail.