The case of the Novartis scandal and the manner in which it was handled by a series of government officials has led to a suffocating atmosphere.
Speaking to his MPs yesterday, the prime minister attempted to a degree to defuse the charged climate that has emerged.
After noting the need to respect the law and to be clear-minded, he felt the need to underline that he does not aim to annihilate his political opponents, and that he does not want a witch hunt and popular courts.
The polarising and divisive climate that has already arisen does not allow for optimism over defusing this sordid affair. When one has thrown into the arena the names of ten former prime ministers and ministers, and has daily leaks of dozens of names, it is difficult to reverse the situation. For many more weeks, political life will evolve around the scandal, corruption, and the responsibilities of the political system.
Citizens will be treated to ever more toxic doses of scandal-mongering, which only manages to further shred the already low overall credibility of the political system and of the top institutions of a state that abides by the rule of law, such as the judiciary.
The entire setting of corruption, and of the mismanagement of public funds, leads with mathematical certitude to greater contempt for politicians, while leaving the citizenry unprotected. It bolsters the most extreme conspiracy theories, which have always found a place in our country, and fuels hatred against those who are considered responsible for the economic and social collapse of the country.
Unfortunately, for a large segment of society, the witch-hunt that Mr. Tsipras now seeks to avert is not limited to the old political system, as it is his wont to declare. The management of the crisis proved wrong the idea that there are those with clean hands on the one side, and the corrupt on the other.
In a wounded and battered society, a sense of contempt spreads over the entire fabric of politics and political parties, undermining the foundations of democracy.
The management of the very real Novartis scandal, primarily by the government, but also by the opposition, will be a crucial test of whether they can protect the remaining authority and credibility of our political system.
We have already paid too much for polarisation, division, and extreme populism, and for the theory of the “corrupt” and “clean”.