As the anesthetic effects of the euphoria, brought about by Greece’s new coalition government are wearing off, its lack of sincerity is slowly emerging.
After several painful days of party tactics and political posturing, Greece has a new prime minister with a stellar resume. Loukas Papadimos is a scientist-practitioner, with degrees from MIT, academic experience at Harvard and Columbia, and executive leadership role at the European Central Bank.
Over 45 ministers, deputy ministers, and junior ministers, many with overlapping or vaguely-defined responsibilities report directly to the new PM. Two deputy PMs, one with virtually no responsibilities, also serve under Dr. Papadimos. In fact the new PM’s government, ostensibly formed to usher Greece into deeper austerity, is larger and more expensive than the previous administration’s government.
The size of the new government is not an accident. It’s so large because it retains most of the previous administration’s ministers, augmented by new members representing the coalition parties. Retained in the new government is Mr. Pantelis Oikonomou, a vehement opponent of Greece’s bailout accord with the EU and the IMF. Vehement, that is, until his appointment as deputy minister of finance a few months ago when in a cyber-Orwellian backpedaling he deleted all the inflammatory anti-bailout, anti-EU/IMF entries from his personal blog.
Also retained in the new government is Michalis Chrisochoidis, whose affinity for reality is evidenced by his 2010 on-the-record statement that US President Obama is a Muslim.
The major opposition party offered both its senior deputy leaders as the coalition government’s most senior ministers (Foreign Affairs and Defense, respectively). Interestingly enough the party’s leader Mr Samaras insists that while his party participates in the new government it has not joined the governing of the country.
Greece’s new minister of Defense, is known for his flamboyant style and largess (at the taxpayer’s expense) in tastefully decorating his executive offices. Otherwise there is very little record of his accomplishments as a politician.
Complementing this government of necessity is a former member of an urban right-wing vigilante group and a former tv-salesman and publisher of nationalist books.
Of the two deputy prime ministers one is a master of ad hominem and the other a populist aspiring to replace George Papandreou as leader of the (presently) majority party. Deputy PM Pangalos has openly attacked citizens who protested the austerity measures by interrogating them (on TV no less) about their tax returns. He has taken the view that all Greeks are equally responsible for the crisis (reported to have said that “we all embezzled the money, together”), without care to differentiate the responsibility of those in power. Deputy PM Venizelos is a populist tactician whose obfuscated oratory creates an illusion of statesmanship.
Exactly how will the scientist-practitioner Papadimos work with these ministers is a mystery if you are overly optimistic, or a foregone conclusion if you are a sober realist. In an ironic departure from the myth of the naked emperor, it is his courtiers (or jesters) who are naked now in Greece.
It is understood that the ruling party entered the coalition government because it had no choice. Former PM Papandreou did an excellent job shooting himself in the foot while said foot was still in his mouth, by threatening the EU with a Greek referendum on an already agreed upon bailout plan.
It is also understood that the main opposition led by political blow-in Samaras has joined the coalition government solely to ensure the ousting of Papandreou, his former college roommate.
It is far-less understood how a marginal, right-wing, nationalist, xenophobic party ended up in this coalition government. The two major parties together had the necessary super-majority to support a coalition government. The 15 seats held by the nationalist party were not really necessary unless Samaras is really courting that end of the political spectrum. Sotiris Hadjigakis an MP, was just ousted from Samara’s party with little due process just for suggesting that this was the case.
Going out on a limb I will speculate that the new coalition government serves only one purpose: to usher Greece into a deeper, more painful austerity while the two major parties avoid exclusive responsibility. In a few months Greece will call a snap election and both major parties can abscond their accountability for the austerity, blaming the inexperienced Papadimou instead.
That PM Papadimou was forced to work with a government of (mostly) clowns, of course is also his responsibility. And fault.