Greek Politics Wallowing in the Mire

The latest chapter in the history of corruption in Greek politics could be called “A bribery attempt through the lens of a camera watch.” It could have been a funny chapter, because it features a famous comedian and actor who has played in comedies, but it is rather sad for the distorted way Greeks perceive politics; those in positions of political power and those who elect the ones in power.

Prone to conspiracy theories, in the last two days Greek people devour news stories about the case of Independent Greeks MP Pavlos Chaikalis who was allegedly offered a bribe in order to vote for Stavros Dimas in the presidential election. An election that will trigger snap general elections if the ballot fails to elect a new Greek President. Chaikalis produced to the prosecutor a DVD with the alleged incident and Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos accused Prime Minister Antonis Samaras for bribery attempt.

A domino of events followed that included Prime Minister Antonis Samaras pressing libel charges against Independent Greeks; leftist opposition SYRIZA accusing Samaras for bribery attempt and the justice system for turning a blind eye on the case; comedian Lakis Lazopoulos admitting that he edited the audiovisual material; alleged briber Giorgos Apostolopoulos refusing that he was involved; Chaikalis admitting that in the past had given Apostolopoulos money to invest; Kammenos admitting that Apostolopoulos has worked for him as a financial adviser; the Parliament Ethics Committee refusing to see the DVD doubting its legitimacy; lawmakers accusing each other of bribery; other MPs saying that whoever votes for president is guilty of having received a bribe or has been blackmailed.

The sad part in the particular chapter is that in the eyes of Greek people, everyone is guilty. The “verdict” is issued depending on each one’s political beliefs. Greeks are conditioned to convict their political enemies before they even take the defendant’s seat. No matter what actual evidence is produced, they will stick to their convictions; and no matter what the actual verdict is, they will not change their minds.

Therefore, for some, Samaras indeed sent Apostolopoulos to bribe Chaikalis. For others, Chaikalis orchestrated the whole thing because his value in the politics stock market has dropped. In the minds of some, Kammenos is responsible because he keeps losing MPs and sees his party losing points in the polls. Others will say that since Lazopoulos is a SYRIZA voter, the whole thing was a frame-up set up by SYRIZA.

Others have taken it farther and believe that it was a frame-up orchestrated by shrewd former prime minister Constantinos Mitsotakis who wants to topple Samaras in order to bring his daughter Dora Bakogianni or son Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the helm of New Democracy. Or because he simply wants to avenge Samaras for deserting him in 1993 and putting an end to his premiership. After all, why did Mitsotakis meet with Kammenos three days ago and one day before the Chaikalis accusations? What did the two men discuss? Ideas for Christmas holiday destinations? In the mind of the average Greek voter every scenario is possible, and it is always the most cunning one.

Unfortunately, none of the scenarios can be dismissed. Every single one of them can be true. No politician is above suspicion. Greek lawmakers have proved time and time again that all they care about is to gain and maintain power. By any means necessary. With the pretext of caring for the people or caring for the country, they will do and say anything to achieve it.

In the past, that didn’t matter much. The economy was in fine shape, there was enough money to go around, people were content. Today, though, when a consensus is needed to bring Greece out of the economic impasse, this lust for power has brought such polarization that it is impossible to even hope that politicians will agree on anything — like it happens in other countries, where people leave their political ideologies aside and they work together for the good of the country.

Unfortunately, many Greeks cannot live without political enemies. They’d rather die than cooperate with the “enemy.” Politicians capitalize on that and keep the animosity fires burning.

So it doesn’t really matter if the bribery attempt was real or if it was a frame-up. Voters have already decided and they will vote accordingly, while similar incidents will happen again, and again, and again.