February 23, 2018
The politics behind the Novartis case
The Greek parliament will have a preliminary inquiry into the Novartis bribery case and the involvement of each of the ten politicians allegedly implicated. After 20 hours of debate the parliament for a one-month investigation by a committee of 21 members: ten from Syriza, one from Anel, five from New Democracy, and one from each of the other opposition parties. The preliminary inquiry has similar powers to those of a first-instance prosecutor. Once the results are published, they are expected to be sent back to the judiciary for further investigation. It could well be that some of the names will drop off the list, writes Macropolis. Yannis Stournaras already presented evidence of why he could not possibly be a recipients of the bribes.
New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis insisted in his speech that the government stitched this up to frame the opposition and divert attention from their own troubles with Turkey and with the Macedonia name dispute. Mitsotakis agreed that the Novartis case is a scandal, but just not one where politicians are involved. Alexis Tsipras on his part delivered a relatively low-key speech, emphasising that the inquiry starts with the presumption of innocence. He focused more on the political aspect of the scandal. He wondered whether any politician would assume responsibility for waste and corruption in the health sector over those years, linking the resulting fiscal deficit explosion to Greece's need for a bailout in 2010. Tsipras clearly has a post-bailout narrative already in mind, painting the opposition as part of the old political system like he used to do while campaigning, and deflecting criticism towards the fight against vested interests. Even if none of the cases can be substantiated due to lack of evidence, there could well be a political win in this for Tsipras.