As we get closer to the next general election, political confrontation will shift from economics to ethics. Greece’s leftist-led government used to have an advantage in this respect, as it could point a finger at the lengthy record of New Democracy and PASOK administrations. Having dominated Greek politics for decades, the two parties should be held accountable for their failings. Meanwhile, their experience prevented them from pleading ignorance. No Socialist or conservative official could possibly claim to have been deluded.
Now, after nearly three years in power, the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks (ANEL) coalition finally has to face up to the same conundrum of power: and that is the slide into political corruption that has shown to cut across parties and ideologies around the world. Corruption is no stranger to the right or the left. I am not referring here to any administration in particular, but simply describing the nascent feeling – also among supporters of Greece’s coalition partners. We have not yet reached the point where people say that “they are exactly like their predecessors,” but we are certainly getting there. And experience shows that once you get onto that path, there is no going back.
Alexis Tsipras’s clear shift toward economic pragmatism – a shift that has already been heralded by Greece’s international creditors – has made things harder for the New Democracy opposition, notwithstanding the fact that several conservative officials deem that the prime minister’s shift is deceptive.
The economy and growth will continue to grab the headlines – and opposition chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis will naturally continue to call for lower taxes and stronger competitiveness. However, the political landscape will change drastically when Tsipras’s anti-corruption narrative (a narrative that appealed to a considerable section of voters at home, as well as foreign officials) starts to fade.
Lord Acton is credited with saying that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. At some point, the Greek public will come to associate this principle with the current administration. After the coalition loses its moral advantage, the equation of the next general election will change to the extent of affecting the post-election landscape.