With Greeks furious over political leaders hiring their relatives while unemployment has hit 23.1 percent – 55 percent for those under 25 – Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, leader of the New Democracy Conservative party, has asked the Justice Ministry to draw up a bill that would prevent Members of Parliament from hiring their spouses or other relatives as employees.
That comes on the heels of news that one of his deputies, Vyron Polydoras, had hired his daughter and a few days after Panos Kammenos, the leader of the right-wing Independent Greeks, admitted that he had hired his cousin. Another New Democracy MP, Yiannis Tragakis, also hired a relative to work in his parliamentary offices.
The salaries paid to those hired by the MP’s was not revealed. There are 300 MP’s and they have lavish expense accounts and are allowed an office outside the Parliament as well and unchecked hiring privileges.
Samaras’ office put out a statement describing the pending bill as prohibiting the hiring of spouses and first- and second-degree relatives to any public sector positions, where MPs are allowed to make appointments. A few years ago, a law was passed to prevent these employees from becoming permanent civil servants.
There is no ban on hiring friends, and the main opposition group, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) has accused Samaras of packing the New Acropolis Museum with people from his home area of Messenia. He did not respond to the accusation, although patronage is a common practice in Greece and the main ruling parties, New Democracy and PASOK, have created the country’s economic crisis by packing public payrolls with hundreds of thousands of unneeded hires for generations.
Kammenos, who has criticized political corruption, defended his decision to hire his cousin. “Yes, I brought him to Parliament to have him close to me,” said Kammenos, according to media reports. “He is a university professor and has taken on organizational tasks for the party. He works from morning until night. What’s the problem? Why all this fuss?” Kammenos suggested that he was being targeted by opponents because he had criticized the government for failing to keep state TV channels broadcasting via analogue signals, thereby forcing viewers to get digital decoders.
Earlier this month, Polydoras, who served as Parliamentary Speaker for just one day following the inconclusive May 6 elections, said he had done nothing wrong in hiring his daughter and that Greek law actually entitled him to appoint six employees. Despite the criticism, there is no sign the hirings will be repealed nor any indication how many other MP’s have hired their families while Samaras is planning to fire 45,000 civil servants.