Ever since Democratic Alignment managed to attract more than 210,000 voters in a leadership election ahead of its transformation into what is now known as Movement for Change, things have naturally become more complicated.
The surprisingly high number of voters who turned up for the ballot presented the country’s two main political players with a fresh challenge. At the same time, the political leverage of PASOK officials and their previous experience in government posts granted them special political status. It became clear that the SYRIZA-led government would choose to polarize the political climate as elections drew near.
In hindsight, it appears that mistakes were made as PASOK’s leadership sought first to distance itself from its past and its name (rather than defend its legacy) and second to expand its electoral base. It cooperated with the politically insignificant Democratic Left (DIMAR) party and the declining To Potami centrists whose presence in the media did not reflect their actual influence. It also expressed disapproval of anything related to PASOK and appeared to be rather reluctant about the whole center-left project.
Numbers are inexorable. Leadership elections demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of the 210,000 voters were either PASOK faithfuls who never really turned their backs on the Socialist party or former PASOK voters who had been lured by SYRIZA’s delusions, only to return disappointed.
However, more mistakes were made in the process. Movement for Change came to resemble a federation of parties as Stavros Theodorakis, To Potami chief, wanted quotas – rather than ballot procedures – in the selection of convention members and officials for the various institutions. Furthermore, he was promised autonomy in To Potami’s policy making. As a result, the whole project lacked cohesion and overall direction.
Now SYRIZA is trying to take advantage of the situation and play into the ambitions of the leaders and wannabe leaders inside Movement for Change. SYRIZA does not expect much in terms of voter support. If there is one party that can expect to benefit from the polarization, it is New Democracy. This is because the conservatives can expect to attract that percentage of disgruntled voters who “just want these guys out.” But SYRIZA nevertheless wants to undermine Movement for Change’s power so as to reduce the likelihood of 180 MPs abolishing the system of simple proportional representation before the election after the next. And it has found support in the effort.