Legal alchemy, and procedural issues with inherent political significance, have torpedoed today’s parliamentary debate on whether to launch a preliminary criminal probe of the Novartis scandal in parliament.
The climate, of course, was already burdened by the government’s manoeuvres, which aimed at politically exploiting the revelation of the scandal.
A series of statements by ministers, and by the prime minister himself, triggered a fierce backlash from all opposition parties, and created a suffocating political environment, at a critical juncture for Greek national issues.
At the same time, the government’s intention of setting up 10 ballot boxes in parliament, one for each of the politicians implicated, without individualised charges of specific crimes, has greatly charged today’s debate.
The paramount issue, however, is that of the protected witnesses. As was revealed yesterday, they had not been designated as witnesses in the public interest, up until the time that the file was sent to parliament.
The after the fact granting of broader judicial protection was decided after opposition charges were unleashed, and indeed on the day that there were public threats of lawsuits against the witnesses.
Once again, we see a judicial shoddiness that does not befit this case, or the weight of the charges. Hence, what everyone recognises as a real scandal, will not be judged with credible and responsible legal and judicial procedures, but instead will be caught up in a political vendetta with an unknown conclusion.
Top political figures will be held hostage to a generalised scandal-mongering, with substantiated or unsubstantiated charges being spread until the next elections, and with a polarised and divisive climate dominating at all levels.
At the same time, the justice system, the rule of law, and constitutional guarantees will be degraded, as they are being linked with an unprecedented clash.
Today’s debate in parliament could have been an opportunity to defuse the political climate, since everyone agrees on creating a committee to conduct a preliminary criminal probe.
Yet, the government’s insistence on setting up 10 ballot boxes means that there will be a generalised clash, which will a priori undermine the credibility of the committee.
The big losers will be the prospect of getting to the bottom of the case, and the credibility of politics and politicians.