Whose scandal is it anyway?

Heavy clouds have gathered over the country, as talk of scandals – both large and small – grows. People want to see some of the political officials implicated in these scandals punished – and, indeed, it will be a sign of democratic maturity when some high-profile figure charged with corruption ends up behind bars. We are still a long way from that. The modern Greek state has been set up in such way that the entire fabric of society has depended on some degree of wrongdoing. Entering the tax office or the town-planning office without a «fakelaki,» an envelope of cash to bribe the state official, has been likened to entering a church without lighting a candle. Laws and regulations have been made in such a way as to hold everybody ransom to ambiguous interpretation and to the whims of the state representative. At times like these, it’s very easy to link a politician or a state functionary to graft and corruption. Some government officials are happy to have rid the administration of the Angela Gerekou case fast and efficiently. It reminded me of what happened a few years ago when then Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis took the first decisive step against corruption, as it were, in removing Savvas Tsitouridis for influencing his son’s transfer to a different university. The administration asked the education minister to collect data on other politicians who had done the same. But, in investigating other cases, she discovered more than was expected, including a leading minister who had wanted Tsitouridis out of government. In other words, in a corrupt country like Greece, no one really has an interest in talking about scandals. For they will most probably play into the hands of ill-intentioned journalists and groups who wish to put pressure on third parties. I am not quite sure how a country can get out of a black hole. What I do know is that in the current mess, when the financial crimes squad (SDOE) is reported to be preparing raids on specific persons, it becomes hard to separate a criminal offense from a misdemeanor and Greece’s political life will start to feel uncomfortably Italian. At a time when the state needs to privatize sections of the state sector and tender land for exploitation, few people will dare to sign any decision when they know they could soon be hunted down as thieves.

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