Corruption, nepotism dominate electoral campaign

In the lead-up to the Oct. 4 Greek parliamentary elections, Conservative PM Costas Karamanlis (photo) and Socialist opposition leader Georges Papandreou have made the fight against corruption their main campaign issue.


On the eve of the Oct. 4 Greek parliamentary elections, the debate between the two principal players is lively.


On the right of the political spectrum is Conservative Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who called for the snap polls halfway through his four-year term in a bid to seek a fresh mandate and overcome the narrow majority his New Democracy (ND) party enjoys in parliament.


Karamanlis is seeking to “to clear up the political landscape” and to take the “necessary measures to lead the country out of the economic crisis”.


To the left is Socialist George Papandreou, leader of the Pasok party, the son and grandson of former Greek prime ministers and a favourite in the polls.


Although both candidates hail from opposite sides of the political spectrum, they have both made the same promise to the nation: to fight the endemic corruption that cripples the Greek economy.


Corruption and clientelism is widely prevalent in all sectors of the Greek economy, and in the private and public domains. According to economist Eyhymios Bakas, figures published by Transparency International (TI), the Berlin-based NGO that publishes an annual classification of the world’s most corrupt countries, are alarming.


"Two out of five businessmen acknowledge that they have been asked for “a gift” every time their companies have won a contract,” Bakas told FRANCE 24. “As for the state, it’s hardly different. The state is at the centre of several politico-financial scandals, which is an incentive to corruption."


Greece today has the dubious distinction of being of the most corrupt countries in the European Union. Greece currently ranks 54th in Transparency International’s global classification. In sectors such as housing, hospitals and most public sector fields, more than 30 percent of Greeks affirm that they have been approached at least once for a bribe.


For medical treatment, just slip in a note


Most Greeks deplore the system. Taxi driver Giorgos calls it a national fatality. “Today, if you need medical care, you need to slip a note to the doctors, who pocket the envelope. If not, they ignore you and you will not receive treatment.”


The problem is most acute with funding from Europe. A big part of it is diverted by politicians or private contractors, according to experts.


“The problem in Greece it is that the laws are not implemented and there is no control,” deplores Katerina Diamantopoulou, Pasok deputy leader. “These past few years, European funds have not been used for what they were disbursed. Nobody knows what happens.”


But one question still remains: will the government that wins the ballot be able to take the fight against corruption all the way?


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