A roundup of news in the wake of the Socialists’ return to power in Greece:
“Diplomats,” dismayed at rising xenophobia and nationalism, cheered Papandreou’s victory:
Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios congratulated George Papandreou on his election victory in Greece. The Archbishop wished him success in his “manifold work for the benefit of the homeland and the Greeks abroad.”
A self-described “diaspora Greek” who was born in the US, Papandreou is conspicuously cosmopolitan. As president of Socialist International, the world grouping of leftwing parties, he has campaigned for minority rights and the decriminalisation of drugs … “Our biggest challenge is to regain the confidence of the Greek people who have lost their faith in politics and in what Greece can do,” he told the Observer. “One of the reasons this government failed was because it had no credibility after the amazing corruption we have seen in the last year. I am a socialist, but I am very non-dogmatic.”
But he is ambitious …
Papandreou has also pledged to move against the high salaries paid to executives, to tax major property holdings, including properties held by the Orthodox Church of Greece, to tax offshore companies and large inheritances; and to abolish numerous state agencies and entities to reduce public spending
Papandreou wants to dip into the “diaspora” talent pool to fix his country:
”Part of my identity is being a Greek of Greece and a Greek of the diaspora,” Mr Papandreou said. ”I think in many ways being Greek is being ecumenical, open to the world. We are a country that has always been open with ideas and contact with the rest of the world as a shipping nation and tourist destination.”
The US-born leader, 57, was educated in Sweden, Britain and Canada, and is a Harvard fellow. His closest aides include English-speaking Greeks born and brought up in Africa, America and Australia. He is himself more comfortable speaking English than Greek.
But, about every six months, another scandal, Jerry Springer-style:
In the last couple of years, we witnessed a sex and culture scandal involving the attempted suicide of a departmental secretary, the alleged bribery of a minister by shipowners (these two combined the mythical sources of Greek pride), the illegal sale of a Mount Athos monastery-owned land allegedly involving senior ministers, and currently the Siemens kickbacks affair. Similarly, however, the last PASOK government was heavily defeated as a result of its own corruption and abuse of power, and Karamanlis’s promise to “re-found” the state, currently repeated by Papandreou’s pledge to introduce a “new ethics of power”.
None of these “scandals” involves huge amounts of money and confirms what the descendents of Diogenes the cynic have long believed: the state is inefficient, bureaucratic and corrupt, and politicians use their positions for private gain. These scandals have become part of an entertainment system, a kind of official Jerry Springer show: it offers something to talk about to a people who have rapidly moved from a family-based traditional community to a highly commercialised society where money is the main value. They can express moral outrage, while excusing their own smalltime routine tax evasion. It confirms the view that belief in values is passé and private vices are the permanent companion of public visibility.
A consensus emerges …
The most destructive factor in Greek life is corruption, and that is what ultimately toppled the outgoing government. Serious incidents that were whitewashed – a minister close to the outgoing premier who was accused of taking a bribe from the owners of a shipping company, another minister who was involved in selling church property – persuaded the Greeks to elect someone else. And the recent fires, which looked like a repeat of the fires in Peloponnesus two years ago (in both cases, police are investigating the possibility that at least some were set deliberately, to facilitate the sale of public lands), tipped the scales decisively.
A big hill to climb:
The real difficulty will be rescuing Greece’s near-bankrupt economy and taking the country into the 21st century by championing meritocracy and showing zero tolerance for cronyism, corruption and clientelism – endemic ills that have plagued it for years and helped provoke the riots that erupted in cities nationwide last December.
George has a nice resume but …
He has capitalised on his international upbringing and education to become chairman of Socialist International and build bonds with such global bigwigs as economics Nobel prizewinner Joseph Stiglitz and former US president Bill Clinton … He has inherited a broken economy and, sadly, a broken society. It remains to be seen if he will be the man to mend Greece.
Don’t hold back. Tell us what you really think …
Democracy is very expensive, very inefficient, and extremely corruptive. Kleptocrats, especially Pasokleptocrats and Neodemokleptorats, the most corrupt politicians on Earth, buy votes with pork, boondoggles, sinecures, and favors, raid nest eggs, churn pension funds and the Social Insurance, rob the treasury, and get huge kickbacks from JPMorgan, Siemens, Man, gun dealers, construction companies, and gay monasteries. It’s high time to end this antivenitist freakish cycle which spirals out of control to complete destruction, and replace democracy with venitism.
Michael Christoforakos, the former president of Siemens Hellas, set a videocamera in his Siemens office, producing DVDs starring 200 Graecokleptocrats, kept at two public notaries. Christoforakos has the tiptop Greek politicians on DVD kowtowing to him for more kickbacks in exchange for lucrative overpriced contracts! 7 ministers and 80 MPs of Pasok, 5 ministers and 73 ministers of Nea Democratia, and 20 journalists shared two billion euros of kickbacks. Christoforakos, who now lives in Munich, identified former party treasurers John Bartholomew of Nea Democratia and Costas Geitonas of Pasok as the political figures who negotiated the kickbacks. Siemens set aside 10% of the revenue it received from state contracts to pay off Nea Democratia and Pasok as part of a bribery system that ran from 1975 to 2007.
Papandreou asks his new cabinet not to hide from the Greek people …
He underlined that corruption has taken up dimensions of pandemic and stated determined to clash with deeply rooted clientism and other similar concepts. Mr. Papandreou also asked Ministers not to hide problems from the people, not to hide themselves and transfer burden to others.
Many despaired, even before the election, of any real change. Where is their hope?
“Today, Karamanlis, or Papandreou or even Jesus Christ cannot change anything because it is the system that governs,” said Mr Megapanos, sitting on a veranda next to his vineyard.