Cheap tricks

By Costas Iordanidis

The ongoing crisis has challenged the fundamentals of Greece’s political system – a situation to which parties have often responded with cheap tricks.

Likewise, coalition leader New Democracy has sought to rejuvenate its right-wing political identity. A first bid was made in the government reshuffle that saw conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras appoint several lousy politicians to key posts in the hope of stopping the leak of right-wing voters.

A similar choice will probably be made at the country’s Defense Ministry after Dimitris Avramopoulos takes over as Greece’s EU commissioner in October. The question, of course, is what is the meaning of a “right-wing” policy at the Defense Ministry? Surely, it does not mean to escalate tensions with Turkey with the aim of arousing patriotic sentiment to galvanize right-wing voters. Voters are not so easily misled.

Samaras, who climbed to the helm of New Democracy mainly on the back of support from the party’s so-called “popular right” voters, has suffered seeing swarms of right-wing voters abandon the party, mostly in the direction of far-right Golden Dawn. The stratagem of former cabinet secretary and close Samaras aid Panayiotis Baltakos proved to be a fiasco. It’s highly unlikely that the attempt to hijack more space on the right of the political spectrum by recruiting three deputies from Giorgos Karatzaferis’s nationalist LAOS party won ND more than a few hundred votes. A fresh move in that direction would most probably backfire.

Karatzaferis and his deputies have for years been among the fiercest critics of the Costas Karamanlis administration. To the frustration of his in-party rivals and the financial establishment that flourished during Socialist rule, Karamanlis is still a point of reference among the vast majority of the nation’s conservative voters.

You cannot possibly restore ND’s “right-wing” profile by bringing in politicians who have become caricatures. In fact, it’s far from certain that a project of this sort is even possible in the current circumstances. The problem caused by the en masse defection of right-wing voters is a complex one. It helps to keep in mind that it was a Center Union politician, Constantine Mitsotakis, who succeeded in bringing the anti-Karamanlis crowd back to ND.

Political parties are durable constructs. Great risk arises when leaders challenge their core – intentionally or not. PASOK is the example to avoid. The government should carry on with its task. Rebuilding its political identity should be left for a later date. It’s serious business, which no amount of cheap tricks can resolve.