If there were any doubts about the priorities of Greece’s new coalition government, let there be light. The new deputy minister for maritime affairs replaced door signs at his office suites with new ones bearing the archaic (polytonic) Greek script. Unfortunately the transcription was incorrect. Faithfulness to the antiquated polytonic script will require that the signs are re-made. It remains to be seen if the introduction of the old script will have any beneficial effects to Greece’s credit ratings or spreads.
The deputy minister’s idiocy is emblematic of the obfuscated government’s ineffectiveness. It also brings into focus the tragic mistake committed by the two major parties when they accepted a small, nationalist, xenophobic party as a junior partner in their coalition government. The deputy minister with the incomplete knowledge of the polytonic script is a member of the nationalist party. The two major parties had a very comfortable supermajority in the parliament. They didn’t need a junior partner and certainly they did not have to lend executive legitimacy to a fringe party.
As gestures go, the deputy minister’s first priority is symbolic of the coalition government’s lack of cohesion. Ironically, the deputy minister’s egotistic gesture came 30 years almost to the day after Greece simplified its script. The new script became effective on November 23, 1981. Legally it remains the official script of the country and its use is mandatory by government agencies. The deputy minister’s decision to have it his way reflects his respect for the law.
In the big picture a few misspelled signs outside the offices of a politician who spent his telesales career screaming about the significance of the Greek language, is a small incident. But as a measure of the new government’s coordination, focus, and cohesion, it is a very ugly first sign. I am afraid it will not be the last.