OPINION

Time to shut down the rumor mill

Greeks are very fond of their coffee shop debates on politics and society, spending hours arguing or trying to get their opinions heard. But, for the political arena to become one big coffee shop, where certain members of the government apply pressure, negotiate and announce decisions through the media, is inexcusable. One government official is going around saying that early elections are inevitable and there is no chance that the government will win. Another is trying to negotiate giving up half a ministry so he can be put at the helm of another and have full control of it. Yet another is threatening the worst if he is relieved of even one iota of his duties, despite the fact that he has been doing a lousy job so far. There is even one boasting about how he is the only one who is still loyal to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, while all the others are simply waiting for his downfall. All this idle talk and chatter has led to complete political paralysis and a government of which every program and policy has been put on hold. Ruling New Democracy’s MPs, especially the younger among them, are up in arms seeing an electoral defeat becoming all the more likely because of the overall behavior of the party leadership. There is little doubt that all this would come to an end if the prime minister moved ahead with – admittedly difficult – reforms and changes. In the past, he has tried to set the pace of political change to his own pace of decision-making. This, however, is no longer possible because the rumor mill is in full swing and waiting for nobody. And there is nobody in the premier’s residence, Maximos Mansion, to pick up the phone and tell the older guard of New Democracy to put a lid on it, in no uncertain terms. Meanwhile, the people of Greece are speculating about whether there will be early elections but they also know that the country’s biggest problem is not the fate of New Democracy and PASOK. The people are angry, because they know that the fires will have a long-term impact on the quality of their lives, because they see politicians who care only about their party and their personal careers, because they feel that nothing will change in this accursed yet – in so many ways – blessed land and because they sense that a long period of prosperity based on borrowed money is quickly and abruptly coming to an end. They don’t talk about these things at the coffee shop, however, as they have lost all hope for change any time soon. What we are hearing more and more, in coffee shops, in restaurants and on beaches, is people pondering the idea of a coalition government as the only way out of the current quagmire. They know that PASOK is in no position right now to solve deeply rooted structural problems, such as corruption and cronyism, which have grown both in magnitude and audacity, nor the sorry state of the state apparatus. In fact, the biggest advantage any party that succeeds this government may have is that people’s expectations will be so low. Either way, over the next few days the prime minister will have to make several decisions and politics will continue its course. Maybe somewhere along the way New Democracy’s members will remember their survival instinct and stop looking out for themselves while pushing everyone else overboard. The people, however, know that they cannot be saved by a change of captain and crew, because the ship itself is old and rusty, its compass is broken and there are cracks in its hull that no one can see very clearly.