By Dimitris Bekiaris
During the former administration, under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the SYRIZA-ANEL government coalition, Maximos Mansion may have appeared weak in terms of advisers, executives and Ministers of State, but it is impossible to refute the fact that Greece had a real Prime Minister, in every sense of the word. Alexis Tsipras was perfectly capable of imposing the government program on his ministers and shone bright with high international prestige abroad.
Today, the highly-touted executive State barely operates, being fraught with problems, it is ridiculed by the opposition, the lack of coherence in the government’s functions is obvious and, most of all: the Greek people are under the impression that the country has no Prime Minister!
What does the country have, instead? Ministers, who have created their own “fiefdoms”, being practically autonomous, who devise personal strategies beyond the scope of control that Maximos Mansion can exercise, who, along with their ministerial duties, plan their own next day in politics as “Caliphs in the place of the Caliph”, that is to say as leaders of New Democracy in place of Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
In this reality that has formed a year and a half after the victory of New Democracy in the July 2019 elections, there are three people that actually stand out.
The first one is Vassilis Kikilias. The current Minister of Health is closely watching the polls showing him first in popularity among the ministers of the Mitsotakis government. He wants to capitalize on this “success” on two levels, in two different time phases. In the first phase, as it is being heard in the background, he doesn’t deny his desire to move to the Ministry of National Defence when Kyriakos Mitsotakis proceeds to the next cabinet reshuffle. His highly-touted privileged relationship with the USA, but also the fact that he’s being favoured by specific interests in the field of the arms industry, are the two attributes that fill him with confidence. Apart from that, however, he is convinced that the polls are a strong bargaining chip in a possible discussion with the Prime Minister concerning his future in the government. Nevertheless, the opinion polls are said to have whet his appetite, resulting in him planning – according to the rampant rumors – to even claim the leadership of New Democracy in the future.
Τhe truth is that the Mitsotakis government will bear the heavy political cost of the criminal omissions of the Ministry of Health regarding the tackling of the pandemic. The scandal of the misleading data of EODY* and the absolute lack of preparation of the National Health System bear the signature and seal of Vassilis Kikilias. However, the ones that get scolded instead are the infectious disease specialists and, of course, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Vassilis Kikilias may not have done serious work in the field of Health, but he has worked hard in various ways in the background and especially in public relations, in order to receive praise for his non-existent work and enjoy high popularity, as demonstrated in the polls.
The second one is Kostis Hatzidakis. It is said that the Minister for the Environment and Energy has formed an extremely capable staff that performs well in all areas and especially in that of communication. It is also said that his whole preparation concerns his next day in politics and there are many who observe and point out that Kostis Hatzidakis fails to do groundbreaking work to tackle union interests and established structures that stem from the social ills of Greek society, as one would expect from an ardent supporter of… liberalism, from a neoliberal who would passionately and zealously defend the pro-investment strategic orientation of the current government. At this point, they highlight the case of the “premium” given to the PPC (Public Power Corporation) that has provoked a storm of reactions in the market of Renewable Energy Sources.
The truth is that Kostis Hatzidakis has turned the whole society against the government owing to the terrible policies he follows in the fields of Energy and Spatial Planning. The political cost will be high and will certainly be paid by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, while at the same time Kostis Hatzidakis, having worked very carefully for his political future and keeping the right “powerful” friends, will be ready to enter the race for leadership as well.
The third one is Nikos Dendias, for whom there is no doubt that in the future will claim his chances of being the next leader of New Democracy. Nikos Dendias, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, as the head of Greek diplomacy, is currently handling the Greek-Turkish disputes. Let’s not kid ourselves, though. He is already handling defeat. Experts claim that Greek diplomacy is being led like a sheep to the slaughter. The great victories of Greek diplomacy under Alexis Tsipras with Nikos Kotzias as Foreign Minister – victories that were universally recognized – are a thing of the past. Nikos Dendias is doomed to handle a predetermined national defeat or, even worse, a national catastrophe. In his attempt to salvage himself from the wreck (as the ship is already sinking) he devises personal strategies, which ultimately send contradictory messages inside and outside the borders regarding the central planning of Maximos Mansion and the pro-German Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The recent harsh criticism leveled by Nikos Dendias against Germany is said to have greatly disturbed Maximos Mansion. The truth is that Kyriakos Mitsotakis is severely annoyed by Nikos Dendias, who in many cases operates without the PM’s approval. Mitsotakis, in astonishment, is also carefully watching the opposition treating the Foreign Minister with sympathy in many cases, while he is hesitant to remove him in the next cabinet reshuffle as he knows well that, in view of future negotiations with Turkey, the message that will be sent to the strong international diplomatic centers or to other, political and economic centers abroad, which have a say in international developments, will be a message of failure.
So, in conclusion: Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis appears unable to impose himself on his ministers, who follow personal strategies, and for which strategies the resident of Maximos Mansion will pay a high political price. The reality according to which the country does not have a prime minister has been well perceived by the top ministers and especially by the “contenders” who in turn, perceive the given inability of Mitsotakis to impose himself on them as a signal to continue to operate autonomously, beyond any possible control, and to prepare for the next day in politics, bypassing the central planning and the demands of the so-called executive state.
In a nutshell: This is the first post-junta government that could be described as the “government of the ministers” and not the government of the Prime Minister. Eventually, Mitsotakis will pay the political cost and the people will bear the brunt.
*National Public Health Organisation