by Makis Mylonas*
Since the outburst of the crisis, the primary platform of all governments has been the aim for recovery and, further, radical institutional and political change.
In that respect, the collapse of the former political model bears, interestingly, many resemblances with the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. Current centre-right Prime Minister of a coalition government, Antonis Samaras, is largely acclaimed by the Troika, the EU officials and, most importantly, by the media for making small but steady steps towards recovery. Nonetheless, his practices are arguably leaps backwards, towards the mode of governance of the former post-soviet transitional democracies that we had hoped to be long gone.
Samaras’ top priority when he took office in June 2012 was to replace the management of the state-controlled National Bank of Greece, of the Intelligence Service and of the Financial and Economic Crime Unit. In search of common traits that the new managers share – like managerial skills, experience, integrity – one can at first sight spot only one: origins from Messinia, Samaras’ own hometown and electoral prefecture.. One wouldn’t easily call that a crystal clear way of governing, to put it mildly.
Until June 2013, the Cabinet of Ministers had only met 4 times, including the first protocol meeting; most decisions were used to be taken at the level of leaders of the three parties supporting the coalition government in parliament. According to Article 82 of the Greek constitution, the Cabinet as a collective body shall define and direct the general policy of the Country. Samaras didn't seem very willing to comply with the spirit of the law.
Suddenly and without an articulate reason, Samaras' government triggered on 12 June 2013 an emergency legislative procedure that enables the executive to legislate, temporarily bypassing the parliament. This time not only was the parliament bypassed, but also the members of Cabinet coming from the two minor government parties, who were not even informed about was going on. It wasn’t a decision made by the coalition government but a single governing party's decision, which doesn't even have the absolute majority in the Parliament.
Within a few hours ERT, the Greek public broadcaster, was shut down and 2,700 staff was sacked, as a result of this legislative act. The grave political crisis that followed led to the formation of a new coalition government, supported by a thinner parliamentary majority.
The Cabinet of the new government has only met twice, the last meeting being held back in August. The Cabinet meetings are replaced by gatherings of smaller groups of ministers, while the necessary and sufficient condition for decision-making is usually an agreement between Samaras and the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the second coalition government party, Evangelos Venizelos.
These days Antonis Samaras tries to cope with yet another fresh political crisis: his Chief of Staff and General Secretary of the Government Takis Baltakos, a prestigious lawyer with a well known far-right background however, was seriously exposed as having a what one could only describe as a disturbingly friendly discussion with Golden Dawn MP Kassidiaris, in an illegally filmed video taken by Kassidiaris himself a few months earlier, inside Baltakos’ office in the House of Parliament. In that video Baltakos openly accuses Prime Minister Samaras of instigating a judicial inquiry against the neo-nazi party for political gain. Golden Dawn MPs have publicly warned for the release of raw footage of such kind in the days ahead.
One would expect that after the outbreak of the scandal, described ingeniously as “baltakosgate” by social media users in Greece, Samaras would have already handed in his resignation, if only to prevent a neonazi groupouscule of criminals from having a say in his political future. But nothing happened. A browse among the Greek news portals shows that most of them support Samaras with passionate vigour and encourage the Greek people to refrain from dealing with the so-called Baltakos-gate, lest the "stability" in Greece be put at risk.
In the name of some obscure made-in-Greece concept of “Europe” and the country’s future place in it, Greece is being ruled by a government which doesn't exactly behave in a very Εuropean way, meaning the very core of Εuropean values, such as the Εuropean acquis of the Rule of Law and Good Governance. The Greek government has been repeatedly disrespectful towards the Constitution and frequently tries to scare the people off for short-term political gain. In the name of stability, the Troika is being portrayed as the ultimate enemy, invented as such by the Greek political system in order to just make sure that Greece will not change so much that it no longer needs its old political bureaucracy.
Nowadays, more than fiscal recovery, a breath of fresh air is very much needed in the Greek political system, far away from the politicians of the past, most of them being evidently prone to corruption and clientelism. Greece should be rescued in a real European way, not in a dangerous post-soviet style of governing, which could only lead to the restoration of the old or the creation of a new system of oligarchs in the country, fated to fail, once again, in the not so distant future.
*Makis Mylonas is the founder and editor of Parapolitiki.com.