Leaders and egos

I recently asked a senior member of government what would happen if the prime minister becomes trapped, if he receives a strong message of disapproval in local and municipal elections, if he is forced to call early general elections and then fails to win a clear majority. «But, of course, he will call new elections,» he said. When I, naively, asked him if he would entertain the possibility of a coalition government, his response was: «No way, things are really serious, he would seek a fresh mandate.» I then asked a close aide of Antonis Samaras what would happen if the conservative opposition leader were to receive a call from George Papandreou, the premier, asking him to participate in a coalition government. «There is no way Antonis would accept that,» he said. «He would insist on holding fresh elections,» he added. The two encounters made me want to scream: «Are you guys playing for your club or for your country?» Maybe I have some genetic defect that prevents me from rooting for a team or party. Nevertheless, I am impressed at the way in which party members think, react and make decisions. I fail to see how, at a time when the country’s future is at stake, a truly responsible person cannot see beyond the interests of his little corner shop. I am also impressed by two things: One is seeing dynamic individuals with international experience changing beyond recognition as soon as they become ministers. They won’t listen; they behave in us-vs-them terms; they are blinded by egoism. It’s hard to see, for example, how Papandreou insists on entrusting a large chunk of the gross domestic product to his own boys, who have no experience whatsoever. At the same time, his ego won’t let him take advice from the likes of Costas Simitis or Alekos Papadopoulos. If Papandreou is turning his back on experienced members of his own party, it’s hard to see how he would ever reach out to political rivals. The second thing is conspiracy talk. If anyone dare think that parties must cooperate to overcome the deadlocks, party supporters see outside powers conspiring against the interests of their party. When your country is faced with bankruptcy, you need to build the best national team you can. A team that is based on players’ real merits, not on the fact that they are friends with the captain.

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