The purpose of this paper is to investigate and propose solutions and guidelines addressing the multifaceted crisis that is plaguing Greece. The focus is on the political dimension highlighting an ultimate goal of achieving a viable, democratic and modern reform that will be accepted and supported by the whole of the Hellenic society. There are multiplying voices arguing that the existing crisis is not just financial, but stems from an underlying political and institutional crisis. If so it will be useful to initially identify the basic inconsistencies that characterize the Greek political system (party polarization, clientelism, absence of civil society, democratic deficits, citizen indifference for politics, reform failures, etc.).
2. AN EFFORT TO ILLUSTRATE THE HELLENIC POLITICAL SYSTEM
2.1 Clientelism, Party Dominance and Social Inequality
Greece being a country integrated in the EU, faces the challenge of losing its political autonomy while transferring key policies to a supranational decision centre. Given the fact that globalization led to the development of new types of private authority which control mechanisms of repression, surveillance and ideological configuration, the country’s operational independency is further undermined by the market rules and the primacy of economic governance. In addition, the Greek political system is historically characterized by peculiarities, structural pathologies and deep regime functions, both at the state-economic authority and at how this is expressed towards various social layers (Sotirelis, 2013).
As emphasized by Giannaras, elections in Greece are held to choose a leader-saviour who will rebuild the state from scratch, not to elect a government that will manage and operate the established state functions. In the largest ruling parties, MPs are bound to discipline, not to critically contribute to parliamentary scrutiny. The possibility of individual disagreements and objections are ‘punished’ by the party leadership, which considers the elected representatives as a unit of measuring power and obedience (Giannaras, 2010:18 & 104-105). The populist character of Greek parties has favoured the commercialisation of politics and the exclusion of meritocracy from almost every expression of public life. The real political debate has been substituted by propagandist methods and from the domination of media impressions. The conquest of power is synonymous to publicity and TV exposure to such an extent, that hierarchical classification is being measured by the degree of media exposure (Giannaras, 2010:75 & 94-95). The recent collapse of the party system is just another ominous and dramatic symptom, added to many other symptoms of irrationality and arbitrariness within the Hellenic political system (Giannaras, 2010:55).
Traditional political forces historically strived to maintain the clientele consensus in order to support themselves, without taking any major economic or institutional reforms (Chletsos, 2012). The reduction of social inequalities and the improvement of everyday life, came at the expense of creating a side-economy and the redistribution of public funds so that social polarization transferred from the state-citizen relationship to the way social groups related to each other. By enhancing customer relationships, major parties legitimised the satisfaction of ‘their’ supporters, as a natural reward for their political participation (Panagiotopoulou, 2008:251-253).
Consequently, the political agenda in Greece has always been a populist one. The existing political culture is a misconception of the idea of freedom with that of not conforming towards the established laws. The criteria of liberal rationality have never found adequate response in a community which is regarded as the place to pursuit individualistic interests. Issues like work ethic, market honesty, reliability, complying with the rules, have never consolidated as real values, on the contrary they were considered as ‘imported’ foreign habits. This created a nation that was permanently ‘hanging’ between different ideas, mechanisms and decisions paths (Tsoukalas , 2008:226-229).
Chletsos notes that the welfare state developed in the late 80s through income redistribution, social benefits and increased public spending and domestic consumption, without a corresponding development in the real economy. The imposed social change was not accompanied by a strengthening of the productive base. The political system established (with the help of corporatist unionism), a fragile social consensus deriving from the balanced allocation of selective benefits. This may have supported a turn towards modern western lifestyle but it occurred without the creation of real wealth (Chletsos, 2012).
Consequently, social cohesion was occasional and driven by family and personal development goals, without moral commitments and rules for the collective interest of the community (Panagiotopoulou, 2008:249-250). Maritime and tourism imported funds as well as European Community support frameworks and massive external borrowing, added fuel to a fragile social welfare model that required the continuous flow of more incoming capital. Eventually, the imposed ending of international loaning (and consequently state funding), led to the collapse of the Greek utopia, with an abrupt degradation of the welfare state (Chletsos, 2012).
2.2 Civil Society, Social Contract and Democratic Deficits
As aptly noted by Tsoukalas, the organising of society in Greece has never been ‘contracted’ between the state and the various social groups, therefore it never required the separation between the private and the public sphere or the integration of a set of rational rules which subordinate the individualistic interest to the priority of the common good. As a result, the society is overwhelmed by the ‘free-rider’ behavioural effect, where individuals breach or 'bend' the rule of law as desired i.e. the implicit condition that prevents anarchy and chaos (Tsoukalas, 2008:218-220). For Makridimitris, the state and civil society are interrelated as the first without the second leads to massive authoritarian power and the overthrow of democracy, while the second without the first imposes the interests of the strongest over the weakest leading to the lack of true justice (Makridimitris, DEE1).
For Makridimitris, a new balance is required between the state and civil society i.e. a set of rules and principles for the management of society in a spirit of mutual trust. In Greece the model of governance has historically been centralized, individualistically directed and interbraided, largely authoritarian with massive regional disparities and ineffective development policies (Makridimitris, DEE1). The absence of an internalized liberal morality has activated an individualistic rationality at the expense of the collective good. In such an environment of week supervisory structure, this fosters the free-rider effect. In the European West the ability or the opportunity to overcome or bend the law (even if it rarely exists), is usually defeated by the internalized behavioural control which has consciously been established within the moral value system of the citizens (Tsoukalas, 2008:221-223).
Alexakis and Diamandouros indicate that in post-dictatorship, the big challenge was to develop an impersonal political system without populist clientelistic practices, with horizontal integration and independently included citizens. It turned out that the ruling parties were unable to satisfactory respond to this need. The traditional patronage continued to distribute favours and power by offering positions in the public sector. Simultaneously, the development of an early form of civil society with institutionalised mechanisms of political participation got smashed upon the electioneering character of the newly-established democracy and the hypertrophy of the state (Alexakis, 2008:104-104 & 108-110 and Vidalis, 2010 and Mouzelis-Pagoylatos, 2003:14 and SEESOX, 2011:13).
According to a recent study by the KPEE (2012), the Greek political system suffers from a false division of authority, as the executive and the legislative operations are largely enacted by the same persons. Following the Constitutional revision of 1986 and the diminishing of Presidential power, the balance between the executive bodies dissolved and the Prime Minister became master of the political game. The absence of a strong civil society and other intermediary institutions created MPs-legislators, acting as obedient instruments of the government. The instrumentalist conception of party discipline and the expectation of MPs to become Ministers, transformed a typical parliamentary function into a reality of lacking meaningful substantial political dialogue. Additionally, the high-ranked judiciary officials are appointed by the government, with obvious fanciful or partisan criteria that confuse even more the limits between different operational authorities. Therefore society needs a new authoritarian definition and the introduction of institutional counterweights to achieve adequate balances (MMEL, 2012:4).
2.3 Partisan Polarisation, Ideological Opportunism and Reform Failures
For nearly four decades, the Greek political system was held under a polarising bipartisanship, which gave birth to single-party governments with a supreme executive magistrate under the title of Prime Minister. The rivalry between the two major governing parties (PASOK and New Democracy) has been dividing the society and the electorate, regardless of the electors’ degree of agreement to partisan political agendas. Since 2007 signs of fatigue began to emerge because of the bipartisanship and the exposed economic scandals. This evolved at first as a 'crisis of representation' which was expressed by the depreciation of the parties and their representatives in the minds of the public and a general disregard for politics. At a next level this was expressed by electoral abstention, the mockery of the electoral process and the creation of ‘exotic’ parties and fashion-candidates (Marantzidis, 2012:2-3 & 6 and Constantinides, 2012 and Sotirelis, 2011).
The widening of the crisis and its consolidation in the minds of citizens, as expressed by the Greek version of ‘Los Indignados’ movement in 2011, transformed the 'crisis of representation' into a 'crisis of legitimacy’ which was then expressed by a mob psychology, an absolute depreciation of social values, the use of violence and a nihilistic philosophy. All these eventually lead to even larger authoritarianism from a state that fails to enforce the rule of law (Marantzidis, 2012:5 & 6). The 'crisis of legitimacy’ is also due to the detachment of political expression from its ideological root and the conversion of political action into an instrumental management of power (Makridimitris, DEE2).
In this new political landscape, the fragmentation of ideological positions, the selection of heterogeneous ideological components and their reconstruction on the basis of ideological opportunism, exacerbate the confusion of 'belonging' to particular groups and weaken the degree of the consistency with which we identify ourselves in relation to specific ideologies or political institutions. It is a situation that characterizes the postmodern society in an unprecedented way, in comparison to the ideological purity of the political, economic and social landscape that characterized most of the 20th century. Now that social objectives mostly relate to the search of a material welfare, ideologies seem like a rhetorical anachronism. The self-centrism of modern Greeks has eliminated the need for ideological belonging in the expense of serving consumer needs and interests. This has gradually led to the termination of cultural production and the degradation of collective life and state functions (Giannaras, 2010:28 & 46-49).
For Halikiopoulou and Vassilopoulou, the structural problems of the Greek economy are based on the established client state and existing nepotism, which created a rotten transactional system which recycles the protagonists of Greek politics regardless of the party where they belong. The client-networks that were developed eroded and polarized the political system, minimizing the prospects of a party consensus for issues of national interest. Under these conditions, the willingness and the dynamic for reforms have been undermined (GPSG, 2012, no14).
On the reform failure, Alexakis considers it primarily a question of political culture and consolidated belief. In the last decade, the post-war idealistic views became more pragmatic and our participation in the EU helped to intensify the reform efforts. Greece however seems to have developed a peculiar duality. On one hand there are the cultural tradition and the national heritage of the Orthodox Church which translate into a deep scepticism and opposition to anything outlandish leading in a form of statism and paternalism and a defensive stance against reform. On the other hand there is an emerging culture of western liberalism and capitalist markets, which by being secular and extrovert supports competition and streamlining efforts and fosters international links and innovations. Our standing between this dualism prevents a definitive break with the past (Alexakis, 2008:111-112).
Tsoukalas recognizes as unanimous national priority the need to keep up the pace with the EU and the Western world but believes that existing structures cause resistance to the reforms despite the occasional political will and the statistically proven success of Greeks to pursuit their individualistic goals (Tsoukalas, 2008:218-220). Ultimately, we demonstrate a strong resistance to modernization efforts. The networks of family-centric relationships refute the abstract western codes and standards. The state-worship that stems from the idealistic view of public employment (while keeping other part-time activities on the side) intensifies selective income redistribution. Educational democratization was only an excuse that put the acquisition of qualification higher than the cognitive achievement (a diploma representing the prerequisite for public appointment rather than a competitive market qualification) and all these have become part of our national consciousness (ibid. : 242 & 245-248).
3.1 Parties and the Electoral System in the Age of Political Partnerships
The last Greek National Elections revealed a fragmented political landscape based upon new political relationships. According to Exadaktylos, there is a strong polarization between ‘in-favour-of-Memorandum’ and ‘anti-Memorandum’ forces regardless of the heterogeneity of individual parties within these aggregations. The main message, with which both Cheretakis and Konstantinidis agree, is that the era of single-party governments has ended. The electorate is asking for new types of political partnership and understanding as an alternative governance model (GPSG, 2012, no1 & 17 and Constantinides, 2012). For Leontitsi this is an innovation imposed by existing conditions that will initiate a long learning process for Greek political parties, which must work together seeking effective compositions that suggest viable solutions to end the crisis (GPSG, 2012, no8).
As Constantinides states the issue of a new electoral system can be treated without a constitutional revision. The current system seems problematic, particularly in relation to voting allocation, coalition treatment and the provision of bonus-seats for the first party, which during electoral distributions create local mismatches and the Gerrymandering phenomena. The careful allocation of seats per region without single-seat districts would be a possible solution. The idea of reducing the total number of MPs has to be examined considering the probability of under-representation while it does not offer spectacular financial benefits. The idea of incompatibility between the position of Minister and MP is a proposal with both positive and negative points (Sotirelis, 2013 and Constantinides, 2012). On the total number of MPs, Makridimitris believes that the debate is of populist nature and we should aim at the quality of MPs rather than their number. It could, however, be a solution to enlarge the number of non-district MPs after a careful redesign of the District Map. In connection with the appointment of MPs as Ministers the current status could be maintained, if we consider the case of permanent non-elected Undersecretaries (Makridimitris, 2013).
A system is needed to consolidate the principle of equivalence of the vote, to reflect a true representation of citizens’ will and to take into account the need for governance. In today's fluid and fragmented landscape, where the necessity for alliances and partnerships becomes unexpectedly obvious, such a system could be a version of proportional allocation with bonus-seats depending on party percentages and their differences. The issue of candidate-choice could be treated as in Sweden with a 'tipping' candidate list (a party candidate list where voter can change the order of election), with the aim of abolishing customer transactions between voters-candidates (Sotirelis, 2013). Makridimitris agrees with redesigning constituencies with fewer seats and no single-seat districts and the use of a ‘tipping’ list. He considers the current fragmentation of the political scene as the result of specific conditions of popular discontent and general crisis and not a product of ideological fermentation. The agenda and the profile of parties should not be determined by the general depreciation of the political system (Makridimitris, 2013).
The use of a 'tipping' party list requires the inter-party nomination of candidates through a general democratization of party processes. Parties will have to adapt to the new electoral reality and the need for transparency and reduced black-funding. The American system of branded party sponsorship may seem too radical for the Greek society but restricting the vast state funding, introducing party supporter funding and auditing the partisan finances will contribute to the overall modernization of Greek parties (Sotirelis, 2011). Greek parties must be generally reformed, starting by introducing transparent financial procedures. Makridimitris agrees that the American sponsorship system which institutionalizes corporate goals is rather problematic so what is required is partial state funding and party resources which prove that a party has adequate active members (Makridimitris, 2013).
3.2 Constitutional Reform and the Role of the President of the Republic
For Sotirelis there is a widespread public consensus, that the state can become the main protagonist in overcoming political pathogeneses through a Constitutional Reform. This is a rather exaggerating opinion, especially when several institutional changes can be introduced without a constitutional amendment. On the other hand massive delays occur due to hesitation and lack of reform programming or because of the reluctance to confront vested interests and practices (Sotirelis, 2013).
In favour of the constitutional 'tool' is also Giannaras, who believes that in order to separate the elected government (as a political body) from the state functions (administrative continuum) we must weaken partisanship within the state and this will only become feasible through the convening of a Constituent Assembly that will build a new Constitution. This is an urgent need that will awaken the public against the continuous decline and towards the establishment of a rational political system. Unfortunately the type of representative democracy applied in Greece is essentially feudal. Professional politicians and ‘corporate’ parties, decide upon changes to the Charter of Constitutional Freedoms for the people without the people (Giannaras, 2010:20 & 26 & 113-114).
To Sotirelis, eliminating authoritarianism cannot happen without first abolishing the special treatment that MPs and Ministers receive in relation to criminal prosecution rules and wage formulation. The disengagement of the Parliament from such processes requires the establishment of a new body. The same applies to the issue of the leadership of the judicial body. The disengagement of the Parliament from the selection process of Supreme Court Judges (which currently implies party transactions) and the allocation of responsibility to a new Authority or the President of the Republic is also another proposal (Sotirelis, 2011).
Great debate exists regarding the strengthening of presidential powers, which were minimized after the constitutional revision of 1986. The debate reaches even to suggestions for a reform of the polity to a type of Presidential Republic, which is impossible to occur since polity is a non-revisable point of the existing Constitution. More feasible is the strengthening of the Presidential role as an institutional counterweight by enabling the President to have the right of Public Addressing (Declaration), the right to request the convergence of party leaders, the right to a Referendum proclamation, the authority to appoint Judicial Leaders and Independent Authority Presidents, the right to exercise preliminary constitutional review of suggested Bills and Laws. All these would make the President’s role less decorative within the political system (Sotirelis, 2013).
The issue of presidential powers is considered by many as vital for establishing institutional counterweights against the total power of the Prime Minister. The consolidation of the political system has been translated for many as a balance of executive powers between the President and the Prime Minister. A President with increased responsibilities will be deemed as a stabilizing factor, mainly because of the potentiality of exercising these powers. In such a case it could be rational to discuss a direct election from the people, although some go even further and discuss the case of a new type of regime with presidential elements. Apparently they forget that polity is not available for revision (so this would require literally a revolution in order to change) (KPEE, 2012:11-12 and Vidalis, 2010).
Within the scope of stimulating a distinction between the powers of the state, is the proposal to create a Constitutional Tribunal to exercise preventive or repressive control over governmental bills. Other judicial courts will have the right to appeal to this new authority, with questions of constitutionality for specific cases. Also issues related to electoral laws or other political jurisdiction could be among its responsibilities. This could also be combined with the issue of enhancing the presidential powers, with the President entitled to propose legislation related to the crisis. Overall, the independence of the judiciary authority must be combined with the selection of its leaders in a way much different than the existing one. The leadership of the judiciary authority must be totally independent from the executive authority to avoid creating another pole of authoritarianism against citizens (KPEE, 2012:10 & 13).
3.3 Citizens as Auditors and Transparency Guardians: The Role of Technology
As aptly pointed out by Coleman, modern technologies and the internet have the power to bring citizens closer to decision makers. An unmediated citizen-state relationship can be produced through electronic communication platforms, giving citizens a political dynamic that transcends the standard regular visit to the ballot box. The traditional models of governance and political communication, are becoming increasingly unpopular especially for young people who seek an active and direct participation. The apathy that feeds the democratic deficits of our time, may be eliminated by a new pure form of electronic democracy, which encourages citizens to be informed and mobilized for the issues that concern them at local and national level (Coleman, 2004:12-13).
Modern democracies should encourage and support the creation of new electronic structures to bring back citizens into politics. Citizens must monitor and filter the information received, allowing for personal interpretations and judgments through the political process. The autonomous networked informed citizen (network-empowered citizen) can formulate the new strong civil society, not like the weak and iconic one of the post-junta era but organized within local, national and transnational networks of political communication. This will allow the accumulation of social capital that will form processes of political participation and informal institutions through new communication channels, acting as counterweights to state arbitrariness and the party-politics of vested interests (Coleman, 2004:15 & 17). Besides, as the use of new technologies and the internet increases, the ability and belief of citizens that they can effectively control their governments increases. This also increases the political involvement, the citizen autonomy and the critical production of views and ideas which represent vital elements of a governmental audit (Gonzalez, 2010:2-3&7).
Governments in turn should attend and support the electronic interaction with citizens and networked aggregations, record their opinions and suggestions and trigger communication of substantial practical interest. The creation of an independent interactive portal aiming to establish a joint formulation of policies, designing interventions and allowing accessibility of all excluded groups (disabled, unemployed, etc.) on the formulation of the political agenda in a transparent and constructive manner, is a step towards the re-integration of citizens into political processes (Coleman, 2004:20-21).
The use of the Internet for political participation, enhances the sense of belonging in an alternative way much different than the traditional vertical integration into hierarchical entities (parties). It makes political relations horizontal and transparent while political activity results as a mutual agreement rather than subordination to authority. For politicians this is a reversal of the traditional relationship between the ruler and the ruled. Now citizens can (and should) effectively control those who govern. Moreover, political communication is fast and cheap in this way, providing equal opportunities and proper information for all and not only for a few privileged individuals (Gonzalez, 2010:4-5).
4.1 Reform Stumblings & Emerging Risks
The Greek reform paradox has to do with the contrast between the obvious need and apparent desire for reform and the practical failure of all reform efforts. Tsafos through an analysis of polling surveys concludes that while there is a general consensus for the theoretic need to reform, this is not transformed into a set of concrete objectives and reform priorities and it is limited only to the reduction of the public sector clerical force. Of equal importance to the desire for reform is the ability to apply the reform and Greek politicians have been highly insufficient to put in operation reform policies. At the political level, the reform efforts have been weak because governments had to confront the same groups and individuals that were maintaining them in power, hence they had to begin setting exceptions (Tsafos, 2012 and SEESOX, 2011:27). Achieving a European type of development requires collective discipline and a conscious rational loss of benefits, it requires collective sacrifices which are not possible if the effectiveness and the distributive justice of the state are in a permanent state of doubt (Panagiotopoulou, 2008:256-257).
Greeks exhibit a relative resistance to reforms because the state has never sufficiently separated the public from the private sphere. The subordination of the personal interest to the collective interest has never become a necessity, because the state structures do not create a set of moral and political commitments. In Greece the notion of family and kinship represent the framework of commitments for an individual and the independent citizen is not considered as a carrier of conquered social rights, but as an organic part of the family structure. This creates a dichotomous perception between 'our own' and 'the others' which permeates the realm of social action, establishing family as the cornerstone of society and a model of reproducing the social values of the middle class (Panagiotopoulou, 2008:258-259).
The resistance to reforms (expressed by the public through demonstrations and strikes), at first seems to relate to the losses of traditional beneficiary groups who enjoy benefits and privileges deriving from the existing system of wealth distribution (Azariadis etc., 2011). But as the crisis becomes established, it becomes clear that the consequences of the necessary reforms touch all social groups either directly (retired, employed, disabled) or indirectly (students, unemployed, self-employed). The extent of sacrifices eventually invalidates the original undisputed acceptance of the reform necessity. As revenue cuts intensify without immediate tangible results or a clear future schedule, the instinct of self-preservation raises voices of protest, that traditional political forces can not ignore (Tsafos, 2012). This means that it is not only the lack of political culture to be blamed but also there are political responsibilities from the ruler’s side (Kazakos, 2012 and SEESOX, 2011:21).
Giannaras is torrid against uncritical unionism. He believes that the political system collapses after decades of empowering corporatist unions and party patrons, who organise massive strikes plunging society in a deadlock. The extortionate nature of strikes and the associated social cost, works as a bargaining chip for the privileged guilds. The unionist mongering hampers any attempt to reform, putting it opposite to autonomised interest groups. Controlling unionist arbitrariness, is necessary to restore the principles of meritocracy and the sense of selflessness, required to imply the necessary reforms that will make society open and versatile (Giannaras, 2010:25 & 147-151 & 159).
Papademos and Rapidis don’t believe that half a million democratic Greeks suddenly became supporters of the fascist ideology, it is rather that an extreme agenda exploits the loss of the welfare state and social cohesion, in a society of confusion and depression, creating an environment with no clear ideological orientation or political thought (GPSG, 2012, no6 & 7). Galitopoulou agrees that Golden Dawn is filling the gaps and weaknesses in those cases where the State is absent (like in matters of public policy and citizen safety), thereby extracting a portion of non-privileged voters who do not necessarily coincide with the ideology of Golden Dawn (GPSG, 2012, no11). Nevertheless, despite the emerging risks of an anti-systemic, extreme and even violent reaction that could exceed in intensity and style people’s inherent reticence for reforms, the expectation for a Western-style rationalization of the political-administrative system still remains alive (Lyrintzis, 2011: 22-23).
The transformation of society has been a central political challenge in the post-dictatorship era but ultimately what was imposed is a regime of instinctive selfishness, collusion and compromise expressed through tax-evasion, public service appointments and massive corporatist extortion-strikes (Giannaras, 2010:69-73). The cronyism and partisanship have become the cornerstone of the Greek state and together with party immunity lead to the abolishment of any sense of control and accountability (ibid., 2010:37-38). A key priority is be to restore meritocracy in the state apparatus, through a system of quality assessment of individuals, procedures and policies implemented so far, with a simultaneous war against arbitrariness and egocentric corporatist demands, which are the symptom of political pathology (ibid., 2010 :29 -30).
Democratic control and transparent citizen participation in decision-making, may offer social legitimacy as an interactive process that will reconcile reform objectives with social features. This requires the activation of citizens in understanding the objectives of structural changes and formulating an informed judgment on these. This judgement however, should be ingested as such, either directly through processes of individual political participation, or through organized social aggregations, without being mediated and altered by intermediaries, parties, elite or other groups of technocratic character (Papazoglou, 2010:10-11).
We live in a time of crisis and upheaval, economic difficulties and social unrest directing inevitably our spiritual and physical dynamics into exploring strategies, procedures and processes that ensure the preservation of our personal welfare and current lifestyle. This effort is possessed by an individualistic approach that has been formulated beyond and outside our beliefs, ideological imperatives and political backgrounds or groups where we belong formally or informally. The 'hardness' of this era compels us to act in self-preservation, choosing actions and decisions conflicting or inconsistent with our ideological roots but always consistent with our individualistic logic which we have developed so strongly .
Political parties so far fail to provide a structured and functional series of proposals to end the crisis. The worst part is that their proposals are depleted in the management of today with no clear vision for the future. The only way out is the activation of citizens, without partisan influences. As the party weakness for long-term solutions turns into political deficit, this allows for de-politicisation of the system and the emergence of extreme anti-systemic forces as bearers of alternative proposals (Lyrintzis, 2011:20-22).
From the aforementioned analysis the following conclusions arise helping us to capture the current situation:
1/ Post-dictatorship partisan client-networks, transformed what is considered to be typical political participation into a form of transaction. In such networks relationships are not impersonal and citizens are integrated in a vertical and populist manner. The immediate result is the diminished importance of the need for solidarity and the development of a rampant individualism, expressed with the struggle for effective access to the partisan system of privilege distribution, thus bypassing the statutory rules for personal benefit.
From the previous analysis derive the following recommendations for a 'top-down' policy reform:
Taking into account that:
a/ All the above suggest that we are dealing with a problematic construction of the Greek socio-political system, which requires a complete readjustment of roles and rules and a review of the way in which people comprehend and internalise their rights and obligations within the community,
I argue that a possible solution that must be tested and supported is to develop initiatives from aggregations of active citizens who will organize electronic communication channels for the conceptualisation, fermentation and formulation of policy proposals on issues of common interest. The distinction from typical social networking forums, is that network-empowered citizens will communicate directly with both the state structure and the parliamentary parties. The parties and the state will commit to develop a tool of social and political debate, transparently accessible by the citizens. They will also undertake to collect, analyze and feedback the concerns and suggestions of citizens by contacting them within predefined response deadlines. These communication results can be quantified and encoded, becoming the official contribution of citizens in the shaping of legislation and of sectoral strategy for government action. This will not be a simple recording of political views of a static nature but a live interactive debate of citizens for practical problem-solving in both directions, the representative organisations (parties) and the state structure.
The dynamics of electronic social media and the exploitation of technology to achieve direct political communication, unmediated citizenship (and probably a future expression of political will and democratic choice via e-voting) is a ray of light within the quest for new suggestions and ideas of political rejuvenation for the Hellenic political system. Citizens must understand the need to take the responsibility of contributing to the ending of the socio-political crisis by offering their auditing, legitimizing and dynamic support to political reforms, thus ‘freezing’ any form of transactional practices of the past.
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