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15 July, 2024
 
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Behind-the-scenes insights in parliament

Controlling authority and exposing wrongdoing

Opinion

Opinion

By Panayiotis Kaparis

Journalism is also called the "fourth estate," not because it has institutional power, but because it can function as a supplementary force in the governance of a place. At a first and ideal level, the media has the responsibility to control the respective authority, to reveal, and present errors and omissions, and to highlight positive achievements. In this way, they contribute to the proper and objective information of citizens. Well-informed citizens can then use their vote to choose the best and most capable individuals for governing a place. At a second level, the mass media also function as catalysts for promoting the decisions of the State. First, through the leakage of news, which acts as a barometer and countermeasure for gauging acceptance or rejection of a decision. Then comes the decision-making process and informing citizens about the content of a decision. At a third level, media practitioners, being aware of the positions of all sides and the conflicting and intertwining interests, can, through their journalism, scrutinize leaders and expose scandals and wrongdoing. This is where the very difficult and great temptation arises for journalists to transform from "watchdogs" into part of the political "game," serving consciously or unconsciously their own interests. And all these, of course, lead to the ethical dimension where mass media and journalists struggle for their own truth, for their own conscience, as part of the political process.

Similar roles are played by serious parliaments at the level of parliamentary diplomacy. They function as vanguards, barometers, and catalysts in the diplomatic "battles" conducted by the respective governments to promote well-understood national interests. In simple terms, the Presidents of Parliaments and Friendship Committees between parliaments can, through visits, gauge reactions and promote government decisions. Depending on the reactions, decisions are either taken or adjusted. Parliamentary-level meetings are generally more "relaxed," minutes are usually not kept, and parliamentary officials speak with more candor than expected. In these meetings, bitter truths are usually spoken, and the protagonists understand, at the very least, where things are headed for their countries and the world as a whole. The most significant aspect of these meetings is the behind-the-scenes and personal contacts during which "raw" and ill-conceived matters are discussed, which are difficult to articulate in diplomatic language. In these encounters, individuals play a decisive role, as based on their communication skills, and the "beauty" of their souls and bodies, they can "gain" a lot for their countries without any risk of negative repercussions.

Another crucial aspect of these meetings lies in preparing the representatives of the people for assuming executive powers in the future. In most democratic countries, presidents, prime ministers, ministers, and deputy ministers are initially elected to parliamentary positions while concurrently exercising executive functions. The norm dictates that the political "game" primarily takes place at the parliamentary level. The most successful presidents, prime ministers, and ministers are those who have served long terms in parliament.

In Cyprus, despite its often-termed "problematic" Constitution, critical and indispensable decisions are made by the House of Representatives, which becomes jointly responsible for resolving or failing to address an issue. Due to their parliamentary experience, many presidents have established substantial contacts over the years, including personal connections, with Members of Parliament from not only their own parties but also from all political factions. This enables them to anticipate reactions and promote challenging decisions that entail political costs.

The common welfare of a state necessitates dialogue, cooperation, and a debate between political forces within certain boundaries. Above all, it requires political communication between the executive and the legislature. The concept of the separation of powers into the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, initially defined by Aristotle and Homer and later elaborated by the French philosopher Montesquieu, aims to separate powers rather than establish confrontational "camps." After all, absolute wisdom and truth do not exist in this world. Everything is relative, and no one is irreplaceable, even politicians.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

TAGS
Cyprus  |  politics  |  parliament  |  diplomacy

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