Above suspicion

Graft and corruption are not exclusive to Greece, but things seem to have got completely out of hand in this country. It’s not just a moral issue. In fact, democracy itself is at stake. When people lose confidence in the institutions, representative democracy is in trouble. The Siemens scandal confirmed long-held concerns and, in that sense, further discredited the domestic political system. Saying that PASOK is the only party to have received illegal funding is hypocritical. It’s an open secret that much of the parties’ campaign spending goes undeclared. Big companies such as Siemens fund big as well as small parties. They also give money to influential politicians who could prove handy. Finally, firms bribe the politicians and officials that sign lavish contracts. In this sensitive case, the judiciary must do more than keep up the pretexts. It must prove that justice is blind, especially given the doubts about the matter’s handling so far. New Democracy officials implicated in the Siemens scandal have been given time to prepare their defenses. A prosecutor with a light hand will fuel suspicion. On the other hand, if it tries to break down the defenses and extract the truth, Greece’s justice system will emerge stronger. Any sign that the judiciary is playing political games will turn the investigation into a political battleground. Its opposite will help clean up the political system. The situation calls for courageous and honest institutional measures. Should the judiciary fail to live up to its task, the role of the institutions will have suffered a serious blow. First, because the public will interpret this as another attempt to cover up a scandal. And, secondly, because PASOK presently perceives itself as a victim because a wider, pervasive problem has been styled as just a Socialist sin. Justice is like Caesar’s wife – it must be above suspicion.