Domestic politics has been well and truly hijacked by absurdity, and the debate over to what extent the previous New Democracy government under Costas Karamanlis was responsible for the present economic quagmire shows that we have reached a new level of malignancy.
The country’s broken economy compelled New Democracy and PASOK – together with Democratic Left – into a forced state of coexistence as part of efforts to “save Greece,” in the words of the leaders of the three parties in the government coalition. This fact has diminished the strength of a rivalry that existed for 40 years between the conservatives and the Socialists, even though these political definitions mean little any more.
On a practical level, the chief of New Democracy, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, has had to pursue the policy framework drawn up by the government of George Papandreou in order to deal with the crisis after some two years of being one of the program’s harshest critics. Despite the changes at the top, on the level of society, differences still exist between the supporters of the conservatives and those of the center-left, which is why New Democracy and PASOK took their eyes off each other and instead focused their attention on the new parties that emerged from two consecutive general elections in the early summer, such as SYRIZA, which has had a major impact on the political landscape, and the far-right as expressed by Independent Greeks and Golden Dawn.
The issue of Karamanlis’s contribution to the economic breakdown was brought up by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras. As a technocrat – of known caliber – Stournaras’s job is to deal with the present. Politically, he comes from the field of PASOK and he served as economic adviser to former PASOK Premier Costas Simitis, though he never became directly involved in politics. Therefore, his opinion on the woeful saga that got us to where we are today is out of place. He would be wiser to avoid getting involved in a political rivalry that is already on the wane. Meanwhile, the fact that Stournaras says that the prime minister is his greatest source of support in the government suggests, whether intentionally or not, that the chief of New Democracy shares his views.
What Samaras needs to do is make his own position regarding Stournaras’s statements abundantly clear, because he is not just prime minister – he is also the head of New Democracy and his success in implementing policy depends exclusively on the cooperation of his ministers and MPs, as well as on the support of the people who elected him to power. New Democracy has already lost enough traditional voters to other parties.