Daniel Howden: Too little too late: the family dynasties who have failed Greece's youth

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The Independent Online

Greece's political elite is a pond that refuses to be flushed. Two clans have dominated the scene since the fall of the dictatorship: the Papandreou and Karamanlis families and their socialist and conservative tribes who have played out largely fake wars while pursuing similar policies.

This as much as anything explains the public revulsion at the offer of a unity government made by Prime Minister George Papandreou. It would mean more of the same.

The legitimacy that would have held Greeks to a national purpose in the face of this crisis was traded for expediency long ago and Athenian politics is as bankrupt as its exchequer.

The cost of that lost legitimacy can be counted in the unreal demands of the protestors in Syntagma Square – shouting for debt to be forgiven even as they bay for the blood of the leaders who might in calmer circumstances negotiate a restructuring despite European misgivings.

For decades scandals have broken over New Democracy and PASOK governments but never refreshed the political class. It leaves a nation of hollow institutions, lacking legitimacy and held together from habit. In return, the citizens run amok, not paying taxes, cheating the state. The black economy that used to act as a release for this accumulated pressure has been squeezed by the economic crisis and can no longer do so.

At a glance the national relationship with politics might appear normal, the opposition conservatives enjoy a slight lead in the polls but this is almost entirely irrelevant.

Another snap election will do nothing to defuse the situation. Just as in Portugal earlier this year politicians have made self-interested calculations in contempt of the national interest and the voters in Athens will be treated to the same dishonest campaign that their counterparts in Lisbon just witnessed. Only the hole in Greece is much deeper.