Monday, 11 May 2009

If it looks like a dictatorship and acts like a dictatorship

He adjurned Parliament.
The Greek Prime Minister shut up shop.
It doesn’t compute, does it?
Dictators dismiss Parliament, elected Prime Ministers call elections. You’d think.
But no, he decided Parliament can go home for a few weeks, shocking even his own team.

Because Parliament was investigating his government for a number of scandals (code names: Vatopedio, SIEMENS, Germanos – among others) and there was a real and present danger that unpleasant things would be discovered, ugly truths would be told.
But why wait around for bad things to happen when you can go all dictatorial and just send the MPs home?
Of course this is not the stated reason – the European election is – and all this is conjecture on my part. Nevertheless four things are true:
Parliament was investigating a number of scandals; members of the governing party appear heavily implicated (read: in it up to their eyeballs); the opposition party was leading at the pre-European election polls; parliament was sent home. You do the math.

So now the Prime Minister doesn’t need to worry his pretty head over managing the scandal debates in Parliament and he can focus all his energies on mounting a vicious and vitriolic election campaign. The opposition party is ahead in the polls, you see, and governing the way the constitution prescribes would get in our PM’s way of winning the election – which is what he’s there for. Right?
Only, hold on, the election in question is for MEPs, not for a new national government. The Prime Minister is not actually running in it. But his party is and he needs the message at the polls to be loud and clear ‘Costa: your people love you’. And what’s a month’s worth of parliamentary deliberations compared to happy news for the party?

So here we go, the longest recess for Parliament before a European election – otherwise known as ‘a way of stopping the deliberations and scandals’ discussions’. Nice work Costa. Nice work.

If you are wondering on the ‘how’ – as in ‘how the hell did he pull that one off’ – it seems that our Premier spoke with the ‘boys’ (high ranking ministers within the party tho not necessarily male – hint hint) and then ambushed the president of the republic after the day’s news cycle had closed on Friday. Apparently most of the governing party were surprised by the announcement and scrambled to see to unfinished business when they heard. On Friday night, high-ranking governing politicians were informed after the ball had been set rolling whereas lower-ranking government MPs were stunned and confused after hearing it on the news.
Shall I say it again: that’s how dictatorships come about. A small group strike under cover of darkness and the inner circle are presented with a fait accompli once the process is set in motion.
The people usually sleep on until it’s too late.

Of course the government claim that they have nothing to hide and parliament is shut because they don’t want to politicise the elections. Oh I like this one. This one actually made me laugh out loud. The PM actually stressed his continued commitment to the ‘big issues’ that plague our land. And he practically expressed this commitment by sending parliament home. This buys him not one but five months of peace and quiet as summer recess kicks in by the time they are all back from this unexpected holiday. And with this little interlude comes blissful over-right for a series of cases that concern the ‘first period’ of the governing party’s period in office.

So yes, a number of uncomfortable issues will now be silenced. Legally. Don’t you just love procedure and regulations?
Meanwhile the political leaders are still accusing each other of ‘political cowardice’ and a tendency to ‘politicise the agenda’. And to be honest with you all, I’ll be damned if I know what any of that means any more.

But the leader of the opposition, always on the ball, challenged the prime minister to call early national elections, castigating the early closure of parliament as an ‘institutional digression’. You tell him boy. Bet he’s shaking in his boots now.
Don't you just love made-up innocent-sounding names for things? It’s not unconstitutional it’s an ‘institutional digression’. Linguistic acrobatics obscuring the issue. Otherwise known as grade-A bullshit.
How about we say it like it really is: Dismissing parliament threatens democracy, constitutionality and the rule of law.
Is anyone listening over there?

And here we are being asked to vote for MEPs. In fact we are being encouraged to turn up en masse for the European election, to ‘send a message’. That’s what both the party leaders want us to do. Send a message to the other guy.
They count on us to carry on acting like elections are simply about sending messages. Not about electing decision-makers. Who will then govern.

And while adjourning parliament for a whole month in order to focus on a different, separate and unrelated election, makes a mockery of democracy and politics as a whole, what I want to know is why does no-one feel like the system is sliding into dictatorship?
Dictators don’t always wear uniforms. Dictators don’t always launch campaigns of death and destruction. Dictators can wear suits and be the butt of jokes. The measure of the regime is not how afraid of them you actually are but how afraid you should be. What makes a dictator is not how many people he kills but whether he ignores democratic structures and legal frameworks in going about the business of government.
And Costa’s greatest success to-date is that he keeps breaking our already derelict system bit by bit and we are still not afraid. Tired, fed up, amused, disgusted – but not afraid.

Wake up and smell the bacon brothers – if it acts like a dictatorship, reacts like a dictatorship and looks like a dictatorship then maybe we should treat it like one and start fighting it again.