Arab Today, arab today a change in attitudes key challenge for greece
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A change in attitudes key challenge for Greece

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Arab Today, arab today A change in attitudes key challenge for Greece

Athens - AFP

The crippling debt crisis has dominated Greek political life for the past two years but more than an economic problem, a solution requires a fundamental change in attitudes, analysts say. A political system built on patronage and favour has to go, they argue, if the country is to come to terms with its straitened circumstances and its dependence on the EU and International Monetary Fund to stay afloat. From the restoration of democracy in 1974 with the ouster of the military, Greek politics has centred around two main parties -- the Socialist Pasok and the centre-right New Democracy. Each based on long-lived political dynasties, the two parties consolidated their power through patronage, offering state jobs to supporters in a process which built up a web of clients and contacts across the country. The result was an ever larger public sector whose huge cost helped push the national debt up to some 160 percent of gross domestic product, way above the EU limit of 60 percent and far beyond what Greece can afford. Analysts say the debt crisis means this system is coming to an end. "It cannot be any other way. None of the parties can now offer jobs to the people, they can't," political analyst Thomas Gerakis told AFP. Nikos Dimou, a well-known political commentator, said "the problem here is cultural. For years, the people were used to the state creating and giving out jobs." As for tax evasion, widespread and loudly blamed for making the debt problem even worse, "that was not considered to be a crime, but a right," Dimou said. "We have to change this attitude," he added. Analyst Athanasios Theodorakis, who now also works for the foreign ministry, said the political parties cannot just return to the old ways. "Society has other demands now. The parties cannot hope to lead the youth with old formulas. What they want now is a rational management of resources." Sotiris Panoutsopoulos, 32, a New Democracy activist makes the point. "One good thing about this crisis is that now the people are judging the political parties on what they can do for the country, not what they can do for your family." Can the established political parties change with the times and meet the new challenge to provide principled, effective and impartial modern government? For Theodorakis, the answer is no. Pasok and New Democracy "neither want to, nor are able to (change) because of their organisation and their mentality. It is possible that they could be overtaken by events." Analysts say change is underway, with new lines of division seen in the old parties driven by attitudes towards the European Union, which with the IMF bailed out Greece in 2010 to save it from default. A second EU-IMF debt rescue agreed in October with even tougher austerity measures for Greece and has proved hugely unpopular. Last month, it sparked the ouster of the Socialist government of George Papandreou and his replacement by a technocratic coalition led by Lucas Papademos, a former European Central Bank deputy chief who was asked to lead the country through its dire economic circumstances. "The new political fault line is between those in favour of Europe and those against Europe," said Nikos Sotiropoulos, in charge of political analysis of the younger generation for New Democracy. The two factions are already present in the main parties which could splinter and form new groupings, he added. Dimou said he did not expect susbstantial change soon, perhaps in "one or two generations." This change "will begin with the young, those who are aged 20-30 years but they will not be the ones to finish it. Nonetheless, the seed has been planted in the ground and a new mentality will come."

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