Shuffling the pack

By Costas Iordanidis

The May 2012 general elections shook the two-party system established in Greece after the end of the military dictatorship in the early 1970s. The outcome of the ballot that took place just a month later was the product of deep concern over the prospect of a SYRIZA government.

Two years on, local government and European Parliament elections are being held in an unusual context. There is no point in speculating the share of the vote that PASOK will garner in the May ballot, because the party is set for political oblivion anyway.

SYRIZA has little hope of dominating the local vote. With the exception of Rena Dourou, who is running for Attica regional governor, the candidates nominated by Greece’s main opposition party are barely recognizable to voters. It’s no coincidence that SYRIZA chief Alexis Tsipras has said that any political message from the people will emerge from the outcome of the European elections.

SYRIZA is clearly beset by contradiction. The different groupings that make up the party have a near-metaphysical dimension and enjoy variable degrees of influence.

If MEPs were to be selected under the previous election system, Tsipras would have had difficulty preparing the party’s candidate list. But now that the number of candidates has gone up to 42 and voters are being asked to pick specific candidates, the opposition leader will have the opportunity to satisfy all of his party’s competing factions and turn the Euro vote into a show of strength among them. This should mobilize SYRIZA cadres across the different wings but, at the same time, increase the cacophony – a problem that Tsipras will have to deal with in the future.

Meanwhile the decision by New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras to turn his back on Nikitas Kaklamanis and nominate Aris Spiliotopoulos for Athens mayor has left the conservatives divided. So has his decision to pick Yiannis Ioannidis, instead of Apostolos Tzitzikostas, as a candidate for regional governor of Thessaloniki. Interestingly, Spiliotopoulos and Ioannidis had both backed Dora Bakoyannis in the race for the party’s presidency.

Perhaps it could all work out for him in the end on a different level. That is because disaffected ND voters can express their disillusionment by backing conservative renegades Kaklamanis and Tzitzikostas, but stop short of turning their back on the party altogether. Samaras may well shuffle the pack after the elections.