The scandal involving telephone surveillance [by the National Intelligence Service] of politicians and journalists has cast a heavy shadow over the bright August skies of Athens, reviving the danger, or rather the threat, of political instability, which can have a catalytic impact on Greek affairs in these particularly trying times.

Until now, the spectre of political danger seemed to be under control, allowing a sense of relative security, despite the many adversities – the energy crisis, galloping inflation, and others – wrought by the Russo-Ukrainian war and aggravated by Turkish claims in the Aegean.

The revelation of the surveillance scandal rocked domestic politics, bridges of communication between parties collapsed, and political dialogue is becoming ever more toxic.

By all indications, over the next pre-electoral months, tensions will escalate and the country will be in danger of sliding into ruthless domestic political and social clashes.

This will be all the more true if there is confirmation of rumours that the surveillance network was wider than what has been revealed until now.

The likely predominance of such political conditions, combined with the proportional representation electoral law, will make it more difficult not only to form a single-party government, but even a viable coalition government.

In that sense, the revival of political danger, or political risk as economists would put it, is for all practical purposes a given.

Undoubtedly, the government has been wounded by a very dark affair for our democracy.

It is obviously on the defensive as it struggles to wrest itself free from the crushing weight of the scandal, and it is confronted with intra-party and external pressures.

Its myth is receding, its credibility is being undermined, and its efforts to implement reforms and achieve other objectives are becoming more difficult.

The government had hoped that with this year’s exceptionally successful tourist season and the strengthening of most economic activities, it would be able to check the repercussions of what is expected to be a harsh winter, due to the energy crisis and an inflationary spiral, and that that the economy would not be derailed from the path toward Greek state bonds next spring reaching investment-grade status, which would free the country, businesses, and citizens from additional fiscal burdens and monetary precariousness.

Naturally, the prime minister will immediately attempt to temper the highly negative impressions created by the surveillance scandal, by accepting and bolstering parliamentary review procedures and creating the institutional counterbalances needed in order to protect constitutionally guaranteed individual rights.

At the same time, he will try to shift public attention to the major issues of energy security, inflation, and economic reforms more generally.

With a view to the inauguration of the upcoming Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), [where PMs annually lay out their economic programme for the coming year], the PM is systematically preparing to set and present clear targets and priorities that will be implemented through suitable political means.

Yet, that task is complicated by the fact that there is great uncertainty regarding both the intensity and duration of the war in Ukraine, and the price of natural gas, which will determine the breadth of fiscal space available to offer relief to the country’s more vulnerable citizens.

It would be a grave mistake to underestimate the political consequences of the surveillance scandal.

The view of certain governmental cadres that the public is not concerned with the scandal is wrong.

On the contrary, it is of enormous concern to the citizenry as it involves fundamental individual rights and it violates the core principles of our democratic form of government.

The government, and the prime minister personally, has a duty to confront the scandal in earnest, and to make sure that there will be an unhindered investigation so as to fully shed light on the affair and guarantee that spies will no longer have easy access to the phones of politicians, businessmen, journalists and others, and indeed with the pretext that a national security issue is involved.

That is the only way to restore the battered trust in the government and to temper the political problem.