Tuesday 20 October 2009

Greek Political Madness

I can’t help but be impressed by the apparent lack of any shame or sense of personal responsibility of politicians in general, and in this case, the politicians in Greece.

At lunch I briefly turned on NET, the Greek public television, and saw none other than Mr. Antonis Samaras. While I greatly respect his personal abilities, I was struck by the fact that in the interview, he stated that his goals are to re-unite ND, and re-connect it with the citizens. I couldn’t help thinking: isn’t this is the same politician who’s defection from the Mitsotakis government caused the fall of that government in 1992? Exactly which unity is he talking about?

NET then showed a GPO poll with the four contenders for ND President. Once of these candidates, who’s name I will omit, was widely known as “Mr/Ms. 10%” during their term in office. The 10% was a reference to the kickback level requested when confronted with a licensing request or other regulatory issue.

Just before this, NET showed Minister Filippos Petsalnikos, now Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament, receiving an update on the Greek economy from the Governor of the Central Bank of Greece. Mr. Petsalnikos is the same politician who, together with Theodoros Pangalos and Antonis Papadopoulos, was forced to resign over their handling of the Ocalan affair in 1999. Today, Mr. Pangalos is Deputy Prime Minister.

What to make of this? Should we assume, as the optimists do, that everyone is entitled to a mistake, and that a re-election is sufficient grounds to wipe away past sins? Should we assume that no one is perfect, and therefore we cannot cast any stones?

Should we relativise the issue? Since all Greek politicians are corrupt, why do we worry about these individuals in particular?

Should we assume that there is quite simply no accountability in politics?

One thing is quite clear to me: I’m disgusted at seeing these same faces, preaching their tired speeches of responsibility and duty, when they apparently consider themselves exempt from this. Given that none of them has shown any particular sign of competence in terms of good public administration, I honestly wonder why they are there.

It’s too bad that neither the heads of our political parties, nor our voters, have determined that the best thing to do with a useless politician is to retire them. This does not mean promote them, it means send them home to anonymity, where [one hopes] they can do no more harm to the country.

Instead, we have the opposite system: politicians collect a long and impressive record of failures, omissions, accidents, errors and corrupt or at least highly questionable decisions. And to reward them, they are not only re-elected, but re-nominated to sensitive, executive posts.

This apparently lasts for generations, either until they suffer a crushing electoral defeat, or they suffer a debilitating health crisis, or they parachute their children into their Parliamentary seat.

Is there such a collective failure of innovation, creativity and effectiveness in our political system? And what are we going to do about it?


  1. I try not to watch any TV (only SKAI) and read only very select sites on the internet. In that way, i don't feel that i am being fed ....you know what!

  2. The problem is not so much the source of news, but who makes it. NET is probably the most objective and balanced national news programme. The problem is that the politicians don't change, and don't appear to suffer any consequences for previous failures. Am I being too harsh? I think I am using the same standard I use to judge myself to judge them. And their failures--individual and collective--have been massive.

  3. And then we wonder why this country is suffering and no changes are being made... Is it because the faces never change? I suppose regardless of the party in power the same people will govern Greece...

  4. The same people appear on the news for some time now... And we wonder why nothing changes in the Greek political scene... As long as the same people recycle the seats of power, we will laways pose the same questions. Regardless of the party, regardless of the time... We are as much to blame for not voicing our concerns...

  5. the reason I refer to the source is that they don't try and embellish it either way. usually, they act like the villains they are talking about are saints, so i prefer to be informed by more 'telegram' style newscasters!

    You are not harsh. I have the same standards. The thing is who will punish the politicians. Noone seems to mind, because, as I see it, they would be very happy to be in the same position. It is like when you encounter someone coming down the wrong way in a one way street. Here we acknowledge and let them go on. In other countries, there would be less tolerance, probably because they are less tolerant of illegal behaviour.

  6. Eri & Alex: For me, you two personify the potential and preferable future of Greece. Young, intelligent, professional, driven by hard work and real achievement. When are you going to set up your political action committees?