Like cancer, corruption can be controlled if not totally eliminatedΙούλ 3rd, 2008 | Μάρκος Δραγούμης| Κατηγορία: English, Ελλάδα, Πολιτική | Email This Post | Print This Post |
Something is very rotten in the Hellenic Republic as it once was in the Kingdom of Denmark. However, thanks to the freedom of speech in Greece, a modern Shakespeare is not needed to point this out.
The ‘Siemens’ affair has at long last convinced many Greeks, including politicians, to look afresh at the way political parties raise money in Greece. The existing situation borders on the insane. According to Law 3023 which was published in the ‘Official Gazette’ No 146 on the 25th of June 2002, the State covers the running costs of all the parliamentary parties and also the extra ones incurred during elections. The law goes into incredible detail about who gets what, how much, when and also precisely how this is checked and cross-checked every step of the way. Special state funds are provided for the research and educational activities of the party. Of especial interest is article 7 that forbids any financing of Greek political parties by persons who don’t hold Greek citizenship; legal persons (i.e. corporations) either public or private; Local Government authorities; and owners of national newspapers or radio and TV stations.
At the same time, however, political parties are allowed to collect money from the public by issuing coupons with the proviso that for any coupon exceeding 600 euros a receipt must be given to the donor with a copy bearing all the particulars to be made available to the authorities. This is a system that clearly calls for elaborate money laundering to legalise donations, for instance with the use of coupons not exceeding 599 euros. The lawyer of Tsoukatos – the right-hand man of Simitis who excelled in this game – extolled his client’s personal honesty and asked the public to sympathise with his predicament. The more Tsoukatos tries to prove that he didn’t keep anything for himself, the more details he is compelled to reveal about how exactly he laundered the money offered by ‘Siemens’.
The time has obviously come for this ridiculous law to be thrown into the dustbin of history. This columnist was happy to see that once again the ‘Liberal Alliance’ (www.greekliberals.net) put their finger on it. ‘Parties should be allowed to choose’ – this articulate political formation insists in its statement issued on 26 June – ‘between being financed exclusively by the state or by private persons and firms’. If they opt for the latter, the Greek liberals add, full transparency and public disclosure through the Internet should be made obligatory. This incidentally is what happens in the USA where recently Barak Obama decided his intention to forgo the 70 million dollars the Federal Administration grants to anyone going for President so that he could use the 250 million he had already collected for this purpose, soon to be doubled according to his team. What is less understandable is senator McCain’s rage against this move…
In Greece such a system would be a blessing. For one thing Greece’s firms, ship-owners, bankers and Diaspora millionaires would be allowed a) to express and justify their political choices in public and b) become ipso facto bona fide donors instead of being accused of bribery by the mere fact that they gave money to a political party surreptitiously, nay illegally. This columnist would thus be free to raise money for, say, the ‘Liberal Alliance’s campaign in the forthcoming EU elections especially as these courageous people militate in favour of two equally, if not more, important reforms.
The first concerns the abrogation of yet another absurd law that grants, practically, impunity to Greek politicians. In this land, dear readers, any MP who commits a crime is safe from prosecution (only Parliament can abrogate his immunity) while he holds his post. Thus, in a few years time the statute of limitations comes into effect and he goes scot-free. As for the ministers, they get scot-free even earlier, namely at the next Parliament after its second session. This incidentally, may explain why George is so keen to ask for elections now, even though he knows he will lose handsomely. On the other hand, the earlier the next elections are held, the sooner any of the PASOK brass involved in the ‘Siemens’ conundrum will be free to pursue his/her career.
Last but not least the ‘Liberal Alliance’ asks for the abolition of the system, introduced by PASOK, according to which it is the Government that appoints the President and the Vice-President of the country’s three top courts (the Greek Supreme Court, the Council of State and the State Audit Council). Greece’s liberals ask that these judges be appointed by a special parliamentary majority and also that the Greece’s prosecutors be assisted to in their arduous job by the creation of a specialised judiciary police corps.
Corruption has often been likened to a cancer of public life. If so it is interesting to note how medical science fights cancer these days. The methods used, aim to strengthen the body’s immune system – the police and the judiciary in our case. In this way the cancer may not always be cured (though this happens) but remains under control and is no longer and not necessarily a terminal disease. In other words, what happens is that more and more sufferers die with their cancer rather than from their cancer. This columnist keeps his fingers crossed that the ‘Siemens’ scandal may, after all, prove salutary for Greece.
Published in Athens News.