Let’s be honest: no center-right government has ever dared some of the steps that are being made today, such as the sale of Public Power Corporation production units or changes to the law on how labor unions operate. Such reforms appeared inconceivable to them, as did privatizations. The specter of the left was partly to blame; that is fears of demonstrations and protests. All center-right governments have been terrified of public discontent spilling out into the street.
The worst part, however, is another factor they had to take into account, which was that within their ranks there were people who deep down sympathized with the stance taken on such issues by socialist PASOK, far-left SYRIZA and even the KKE communists. A tsunami of populism in the post-dictatorship period of the late 1970s and early 80s frightened the Greek center-right and sent it toward PASOK, where it lost all sense of ideological orientation associated with a European conservative party. Its unionists were no different in rhetoric and mindset than those of KKE or SYRIZA later. This is, after all, evident now that some of them have gravitated to the leftist party and its coalition partner, the Independent Greeks on the nationalist right. Come to think of it, this is where they belong. It was their previous position that didn’t make sense.
And right beside these unionists was the party nomenklatura, which wanted a big nepotistic state where they could get comfy jobs for themselves and their children.
Some saw Constantine Karamanlis as a leader who would turn a blind eye to right-wing populism and fiscal laxity. In truth, he didn’t support either and would be very angry to see the present condition of the almighty state and where decades of fiscal prodigality has led us. Karamanlis rocked the boat in his time and has proved a radical. He believed in running a tight fiscal ship and supporting the Greek entrepreneurial spirit.
The old PASOK and the left prevailed entirely, however, and destroyed the center-right. They filled it with a guilt complex and forced it into a position where it had to constantly apologize for its past and its liberal economic views. The left was soon also armed with the argument that anything that wasn’t statist was by default neoliberal.
The time has probably come when everyone should go where they really belong, wherever that may be. Big parties obviously need to represent many different voices, but they shouldn’t settle for being a mere shelter for politicians who won’t pick a side. If they do, they run the risk of serious internal discord and an inability to reach any decisions whatsoever when they do come to power.