Can party leaders reach out to voters across a broad social spectrum if their rhetoric is bare of emotional high notes, some psychological manipulation and plenty of tugging at the heartstrings? When they come across as rational, structured, clean-cut – but also possibly a bit dry?
When they make no promises but make it clear that they are at hand and have the right technocratic knowledge to work in order to help the country exit the crisis?
In an interview with Skai TV on Thursday night, New Democracy chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis used a different kind of communication method than those we had become accustomed to by previous opposition leaders.
“I will only promise those things I can deliver,” he said in the interview. The conservative leader pledged to lower the ENFIA unified property tax and carry out a number of significant reforms. He also said he planned to form a government of officials who would stand out for their excellence.
“For instance,” he said, “I will not tolerate politicians and hospital directors whose only concern is getting a phone call from someone asking them to find an available bed in an intensive care unit. This also took place when New Democracy was in power but I will change it.”
Mitsotakis kept clear of inner-party minefields, tried to present a profile of political professionalism and refused to resort to convenient anti-bailout talk. He described what he called a “run-down” country: “Look at the economy, the pensioners, education. I cannot tolerate this kind of decay. I have the responsibility to put an end to it.”
That’s when it gets tricky. It’s not just about the government’s response or ND’s admission of its own sins, but rather, addressing the question society will inevitably ask: how can ND bring an end to the decay when it had a part in creating it? Such questions are inevitable. Whether fair or unfair, they are asked in sensible or condescending tones.
Mitsotakis’s novel way of communicating relies on the assumption of an active civil society – no matter whether or not people agree with him or whether they support the conservative party. It presupposes citizens who are willing to abandon all kinds of illusions and contain their emotions.
However, there is still plenty of ground to cover in order to win over the area between the ineffective approach of the technocrats and disruptive populism, which would allow for public common sense to find its representative.
Mitsotakis has a gauntlet to go through and the biggest test will be whether he is capable of fruitful and effective opposition.