Saturday, October 9, 2021

Rocking Along With the Cradle of Democracy



In reading through Greek newspapers for a topic of interest to write about, I drifted toward the ever-present threats of war posed by Turkey, the implications of Greece announcing the purchase of warships from France so soon after the US wrecked France’s submarine deal with Australia, the nation’s battle to vaccinate its population, Greece’s optimistic view of tourism for next year, and record setting rising rental rates across much of Greece’s most populated regions.


But then I came across an opinion piece by one of my favorite editorial writers, Alex Papachelas, executive editor of Kathimerini newspaper.  He titles his article, “Political instability through coalitions,” and addresses current difficulties faced by Greece within a parliamentary system that virtually always requires disparate parties to unite in forming a coalition government with leaders endorcing decidedly different agendas from what’s desired by a majority of Greeks. 


A situation unimaginable under America’s two-party system.


Yeah, right.


These days, inquiring minds want to know whether America is a two, three, four, or five party system?


Though in places the editorial refers to situations obviously unique to Greece, with the Grand Kabuki-level drama currently playing out within America’s three branches of government, if one substitutes “America” for “Greece” in Mr. Papachelas’ editorial, he succinctly sums up an existential threat facing American democracy.  Nowhere more chillingly so than in the final sentence of his final paragraph.


Here’s the editorial:


Some people dream of coalition and weak governments – for many different reasons. But is Greece a country that can be governed with a system of proportional representation? It would be very hard. It is, after all, a country that is marginally governed, even under normal circumstances.


There is no culture of cooperation and consensus at all in our political DNA. The mentality of the zero-sum game has prevailed for decades. No matter how small the differences have become on serious issues, the gap between our political leaders and the main parties is huge.


The only case in which one could imagine our political leaders sitting at the same table would be on the brink of a disaster, as was the case, for example, in 2015, when we came close to a Grexit. But there is no reason to step any closer to the abyss just to see if we can withstand coalition governments. After all, it is political instability and uncertainty that can easily push us over the edge.


Currently, for example, there are many people and companies who want to either invest or gain a foothold in Greece. When asked about the country, they are naturally interested in the problems with justice and the public administration, as well as to the unpredictable factor called Turkey. But one thing worries them most: whether the country is going to go through more periods of political uncertainty, with new problems. It took a lot of effort to restore the country’s credibility and put our misadventures behind us. There is no room for setbacks.


Greece is not Germany. It will be years before we can afford to wait for months for a new government to be formed. Or for us, the media, to demand that all political leaders sit at the same table on election night. As for the Greek state, its operation slows down months ahead of and after the elections. In case of a political vacuum, it would not work at all. We are facing many important threats: fires, public debt, Turkey. These are issues that require quick decisions and a common understanding of the necessary actions, which is rare even in a one-party government.


It is natural for those who feel necessary or left out of the game to want to enter or re-enter. The danger is that we will find ourselves in a chaotic situation in which the question of how the country can be governed does not depend on the necessary people, but on lunatics and extremists.



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