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Over the past two years, the quality of politicians has deteriorated

12 November 2012 / 18:11:54  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova 

An overwhelming majority of 167 deputies passed Greece’s 2013 budget and the surprises associated with the votes of individual deputies were few. The debates on it, however, were extremely interesting, especially when some of the deputies decided to turn the parliament into a theatrical stage.

The statement of SYRIZA’s deputy, Stathis Panagoulis, provoked the highest number of responses. He directly threatened his colleagues who had supported the new package of austerity measures, by saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, who signed the memoranda, pray to face special courts. Personally, I wish you this before the possibility for some of you to face the end of the USA ambassador to Libya a few months ago. I wish you good luck."

The threat of lynching shocked the public opinion. SYRIZA issued a message to separate itself from the deputy’s "personal opinion", without taking any concrete action.

Far more comic was the speech of the famous actor and member of Independent Greeks, Pavlos Haykalis, who had brought a tape recorder with him to "recall" previous speeches of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. His plan failed when the chairman of the meeting turned off his microphone and said that the parliament was not a theatre.

GRReporter contacted sociologist George Siakandaris for a comment.

"First, I must say that Stathis Panagoulis, Panos Haykalis and the parliamentary representative of Independent Greeks, Notis Marias, have passed through all the extremist parties in Greece. Marias was in Mikis Theodorakis’ movement and in the extreme left in the past. Panagoulis, who is now a deputy of SYRIZA, was once in the Nationalist Party "Political Spring". We see that the parties that are outside the political centre operate on the principle of "communicating vessels". That is why it is very easy for these "random" people to move from one party to another. They do it for the sole purpose of being elected, thus transferring their extreme positions.

I think that the problem is not so much the individuals. The public more or less knows who they are, what their ideas are and how extreme they are. But for me, the main thing in the statement of Stathis Panagoulis is not the fact that it is extreme but that it is extremely non-political. It is beyond the boundaries of the political system, ideology and culture. The problem is not in it, but in the parties that accept such people. So, parties have to choose: they will either find themselves outside the political system or will throw these people out of their ranks.

The bad thing is that the parties and SYRIZA in the present case take advantage of such extreme ideologies. Even its leader, Alexis Tsipras, threatens businessmen and potential investors from the pages of the foreign press that if they come to Greece they will lose their money. This is much worse than Panagoulis’ threats.

Threats of lynching are absolutely incomprehensible. But even more incomprehensible to me is the following fact: we all say that we want a change in parliament, that we are tired of the heirs of old political families and the like. And here, over the past two years, new faces have appeared in politics, which are far worse than the old ones. It is because the old ones were carriers of a family, if you like, and bourgeois political culture. They might have had one position or another too but they would never reach the level of those who threaten to lynch and whose wish is that the deputes face special courts to avoid it.

The problem for me is that the Greek political system prevents valuable people from being elected because they are not ready to dabble in politics in this way.

Do you think that such actions could scare voters and that they might think over their next vote?

I do not think this is the key. Yes, they might scare some of them. But the opposite is possible too: Remember Ilias Kasidiaris’ slapping Liana Kanelli in the face. It gave votes to Golden Dawn. People are angry and frustrated and in such situations, similar threats have a positive rather than a negative effect.

The delays in the payment of the next tranche could cause extreme reactions, but I could not tell if SYRIZA would win or lose from Stathis Panagoulis’ statement.

Greek society as a whole believes in the motto that "violence is the midwife of history." This shallow phrase leads not only to extreme left parties. It has penetrated the minds of many of our fellow citizens and I cannot say whether the use of more violence increases or decreases the popularity of a party.

Is there a difference between the violence of the extreme left and that of the extreme right and what is it?

In terms of the practices used – there is no difference. Both of them strike a blow at their opponents. Left students prevent their teachers from expressing a different opinion, and extreme right and neo-Nazis create serious problems to immigrants and other groups. So far, there is no difference.

It is in their principles. The ideology of neo-Nazism and extreme right is anti-humanitarian in its essence. The ideology of the left defends humanity but authoritarian regimes have been introduced in the course of its implementation.

If, however, we align these two ideologies based on the assumption that the violence they use is the same, we will have to accept that their ideas are also the same. But the core of Nazism is hatred whereas of the ideology of the left, it is the society of personal and social emancipation. Aligning these different ideas is like aligning the ideas of the entire left with the extreme left and the extreme right. This is not right because it leads to the debasement of the values ​​of the left, which have nothing to do with class hatred, as some left-wing representatives claim or with racial hatred, as Golden Dawn and other neo-Nazi bands perceive.

I'm afraid that if we align them we could lose the demand for personal and social liberation of societies. And if this happens, then we will not be able to talk about democracy. The conservative views of the right are necessary to preserve the values, traditions, etc., which are very serious as well as the left’s demand for social change. If they do not exist, pluralism and democracy will be lost.

Then, there will be no obstacle to aligning the left and the right, or to challenge the need for democracy. The conceptual principles of these two political spaces are different and we should not make such comparisons.

Could this phenomenon cause a civil conflict?

No, I do not think so. This is too extreme and I do not think things could get to such a point. There could be conflicts and violence, but I do not think that it could cause a civil war in the common sense. The biggest threat to Greece is the exit from the eurozone and this could actually cause a civil war.

This should be clear to all who decide on the future of Europe at present.

Tags: PoliticsParliamentDebatesStathis PanagoulisPavlos HaykalisLynchSpecial courts
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