Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Despite crisis business as usual for Greece's politicians

Towards the end of the ex - Greek prime minister, Konstantinos Karamanlis's second term yet another corruption scandal erupted which would ultmately be the death knell for the ruling conservative New Democracy party in the 2009 general elections. After less than two years in power the party founded by his uncle, also called Konstantinos Karamanlis in 1974 lost power to the left of centre PASOK party lead by Giorgos Papandreou, son and grandson of previous Greek PMs Andreas and Giorgos Papandreou.

The revelations that senior New Democracy officials had collaborated in a highly dubious land swap in which a remote lake in the north of Greece was exchanged for a large piece of prime Athens real estate outraged public opinion and ultimately ended in Karamnlis calling for early elections.

The details of the deal which featured the Greek Orthodox monastery of Vatopedi are as convoluted as they are legally dubious. However, an insightful article in Vanity Fair by Michael Lewis paints a lucid, if dark picture of corruption and lawlessness at the heart of the Greek political establishment. According to Lewis it was exactly the ability of polticians to operate without oversight or restraint that helped create the present financial crisis and massive debt load.

Yet even as the country set to enter its third year of recession with the prospect of still more cuts and the economy set to shrink even further the the political establisment in Athens are still playing the same constitutional games, seemingly untouched by the financial maelstrom embracing Greece. Evasions, denials and endless parliamentary manouevering still rule the day and even after the appearance plethora of evidence indicating wrong doing the former prime minister of Greece can say that neither he, nor his administration have any repsonsibility for either the Vatopedi scandal of the dire state of Athens's coffers.

It would be nice to think that by ousting a corrupt government Democracy has once more won out. The reality of the situation is that one corrupt poltical oligarchy has been replaced by another. The current rulers of Greece, PASOK have a rich history of scandal and corruption which has been not resulted in a single conviction, The Sieman's bribery case and a list of pay offs by other German firms to PASOK officials in the run up to the 2004 Olympic Games has also been put on the parliamentary back burner, to be quietly dropped at a future date.

Given that the current political scene is full of exactly those officials who presided over the creation of Greece's present woes its is very hard to have faith in their ability to not repeat the mistakes of the past. In all probability the future holds more of the same just on a smaller scale reflecting the country's dire fiancial state.

It's a bitter irony that Kostas Karamanlis was elected on a reform ticket by an electorate fed up with the corruption of the previous PASOK government lead by Kostas Simitis. His promise to clean up politics and reform the dysfunctional Greek state stroke a chord with voters who hoped that the right of centre New Democracy party would change the status quo. As history has shown the differences in ideology between Greece's two largest parties are nothing compared with their inability to resist the financial temptations offered by power.

Faced with the failure of both PASOK and New Democracy to control the greed of their own officials the local elections in November may prove to be the beginning of the end of the current Greek party political scene.

1 comment:

toomanytribbles said...

business as usual: