Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

The art of politics

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TAGS: Politics, Diplomacy

Anyone involved in politics needs to have a strong stomach and plenty of patience.

Up until very recently, members of the Athenian elite were often heard complaining about New Democracy’s leader: “Kyriakos [Mitsotakis] doesn’t have what it takes. He must say more populist things, tell a few lies, it’s not that bad.” 

The very same people are now loudly complaining: “This isn’t right. He’s being too populist on Skopje. He’s gone too far.” Those who wanted the leader of the main opposition to be more like the late PASOK prime minister Andreas Papandreou and less of a “Mitsotakis” are now displeased. 

However, “politics is the art of the attainable,” as late premier Constantine Karamanlis used to say. If Mitsotakis had supported the deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, it is certain that ND would have tanked in the polls, and a new nationalistic and fully anti-European party would have been created to its right whose popularity would probably skyrocket in the next election. 

If the electoral system were to change to proportional representation, the Greek political system would be very fragmented and the extreme right would secure an influential role. 

On the other hand, politics is like cooking. It’s an art where the exact quantities are important to produce a successful recipe. If you add a little bit more “patriotism,” you run the risk of losing the centrists, who don’t want to be viewed as devoted voters of any specific party. 

It’s reasonable if Mitsotakis thinks he’s been riding a galloping horse since the name deal. The danger is he might end up riding Bucephalus, Alexander the Great’s powerful steed who could take his rider anywhere he pleased. 

The balance between the right and the moderate center will require great caution from now on. Mitsotakis clearly understands he cannot resonate with a far-right audience whatever he may do, because in their eyes he is not right-wing enough. 

It is clear, however, that the plan to divide the right has failed. The name deal helped prominent party officials form a united front.

ND’s “old guard” will experience a period of awkwardness and lassitude. But there will surely be other efforts to divide the party because old habits die hard. 

Mitsotakis is currently playing a role that doesn’t fit and which he likely never believed he would play. It was a one-way street. If he didn’t do it, he would have committed political suicide or he would have turned ND into a somewhat larger Potami. 

Critics will of course continue to make their arguments. Nothing is easier than being an armchair commentator observing the overheated Greek political scene.

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