OPINION

Patronage politics

Education Minister Petros Efthymiou yesterday reproached the director for secondary education in eastern Attica, Christina Nikitara, for inviting the teachers in the area to attend a ceremony marking the construction of a new school in Koropi and urging them to give the minister an «enthusiastic reception» – and rightly so. However, we are not here concerned with the exception, meaning Efthymiou’s display of democratic sensitivity, but with the rule – the partisan fanaticism of thousands of civil servants who see their post, progress and salary as being tied to the perpetuation of Socialist rule. Nikitara’s initiative is a petty offense next to the fact that hordes of medium-ranked and senior state officials put the party’s interest (and their self-interest) above the interest of the State or the common good. Needless to say, party- and state-interest don’t coincide, as the former is usually served at the expense of the latter. Using the «dismantling of the right-wing administration» as a pretext, PASOK in 1981 undid the public administration. But instead of reforming the system from scratch, PASOK set up its own patronage-dominated state. PASOK’s long stay in power has created the ideal conditions for the promotion of party officials across the public domain. For when the employee, the professor or even the judicial official realizes that hierarchy and meritocracy have been overrun by party allegiance, they too will fall in behind the party which will most likely be in power in the years to come. The growth of the patronage-dominated state and the protracted rule by one party are interrelated phenomena, as one helps perpetuate the other. Regular political changeovers are the only remedy against the growth of an establishment mentality. Those who reject patronage politics should take this into account when voting in the coming parliamentary elections. Let’s hope we are the majority.