Big party at a great cost

There are two or three ministers in today’s government whose behavior is just on the wrong side of provocative. New Democracy rose to power on the charisma of its chief, Costas Karamanlis, who made the party strong, and also because the people were tired of the behavior of certain high-ranking members of PASOK. The high cost of living did the opposition party as much damage as Akis Tsochadzopoulos’s Paris wedding and rumors of the lifestyles enjoyed by a number of other ministers. It is a fact that the prime minister has not altered his way of life since 2004; he lives by his campaign slogan «discreetly, modestly.» Recently, though, we have seen a rising number of – potentially politically damaging – instances of ministers flaunting their wealth, striving to join the ranks of that big party that has been held at the people’s expense for so many years now. One is seen taking photographs beside his new yacht and «little country home.» The other never fails to appear at society functions. Yet another spends every weekend partying on Myconos. I have nothing against ministers having a good time. Quite the opposite, I believe it is crucial for executives to relax in their spare time. The problem is that here we are not talking about executives, because they spend little if any time on government business. And maybe the money does come from family coffers. There is, however, a political question at hand. First of all, this kind of behavior has an immeasurable effect on the average citizen who is just trying to scrape by. Secondly, the Siemens scandal has raised suspicions that where there’s smoke there’s fire. And last but not least is the fact that such situations reach the point where it is no longer enough for people to know that the chief is keeping his hands clean. Karamanlis finds himself in a crucial political period with only a slim majority. His greatest weapon has always been his moral advantage and now this must preserved at all costs – even if it means being unfair where there is no hard evidence but enough plausible doubt.