There is a certain type of voter that has become rare and increasingly frustrated. These people used to make up a small but critical mass that decided political developments. They were the centrist voters who moved toward the left to elect Socialist Costas Simitis as prime minister, before shifting to the right to elect Costas Karamanlis, a conservative. The crisis had them face unexpected dilemmas, such as whether they should support New Democracy under Antonis Samaras. And they did, driven by a sense of pragmatism and the threat of Grexit. The bad news is that the center-right wasted an opportunity to transform itself back then. Partisan reflexes prevailed and the ND leadership chose the beaten track, particularly following the fatal government reshuffle after the 2014 European elections.
The race to elect a leader for Greece’s center-left spawned fresh illusions. Many people stood in line to vote politicians with a reformist profile. The ballot outcome left them deeply disappointed, as if they were attending a sermon at the wrong church.
Greece’s financial crisis has been dragging on for too long and cynicism is intensifying. This is frustrating this small minority of romantic citizens, often making them feel that the game has been lost. New Democracy is too old-fashioned in their eyes, while the center-left seems like a spinoff of the old PASOK.
It’s time these voters adapted to reality. The groups who pushed this country in the direction of reform and Europeanization have since the time of Alexandros Ypsilantis always been minority groups. The people who played a key part in Greece’s modernization could have easily turned their back on the country’s Balkan reality instead of choosing to put their nose to the grindstone.
But they went for it, and managed to come up with a vision for the country and inspire the middle class. To be sure, they made their fair share of compromises and did not always feel comfortable with their political co-passengers.
But there is no other way. Those who suffer because they cannot find the perfect fit must finally grow up. In recent years, Greece has regressed institutionally, economically and culturally. If the country is to get back on course, it must first restore its lost confidence and hopes. The biggest risk comes from the fact that we are lowering the bar both for our leaders and ourselves. Those who share this anxiety can do no worse than build an artificial political island on which they can feel cozy and warm.