Curtain falling on Greece's ruling dynasts

Fri Dec 9, 2011 10:54am EST
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By Karolina Tagaris

ATHENS (Reuters) - They have dominated Greek politics for decades, attending the same prestigious schools, sharing college dorms and mixing socially, but always fighting tooth and nail for political advantage.

Disillusioned by their leaders, many Greeks hope the debt crisis that has brought the country to its knees may finally break the stranglehold the ruling dynasts have on politics in the country.

But they could just be exchanging one set of elites for another, or the younger generation of the same.

Nepotism and patronage are so deeply rooted, and family and clan loyalties so strong, that change will not come quickly.

"Political culture doesn't change overnight and Greek politics is in many ways personalistic and polarized, where the name of the family is far more important than any other credentials," said Othon Anastasakis, director of Southeast European studies at Britain's Oxford University.

"It works as a closed profession and it's very difficult to accept new people, new blood with new ideas," said Anastasakis, a former Greek Foreign Ministry adviser.

The Karamanlis, Papandreou and Mitsotakis families have taken turns at governing Greece for the greater part of half a century, most recently under Papandreou scion George. Their names have traditionally been enough to secure a seat in parliament, if not a ministry.

But opinion polls show support for the main parties - socialist PASOK, a Papandreou fiefdom, and conservative New Democracy, founded by a Karamanlis - has dropped to a record low during an austerity-driven recession.   Continued...