The decision by centrist To Potami lawmakers to break away from the Movement for Change (KINAL) alliance and go it alone – for many reasons that do make sense – has changed the Greek political landscape.
Even though it is a small party, the decision will trigger a wave of realignments. The development has also resulted in Movement for Change looking even more like a mirror of PASOK, the main party in the alliance. This will make it even harder to convince public opinion that KINAL is something new on the political stage. Despite the good intentions of some and honest efforts of others, it will not be seen as a symbol of hope anymore.
The momentum that had built up at the start of the year for the new movement – which admittedly proved much more lackluster than expected within just a few months – has been slowed down considerably by To Potami’s move. The expectations that were raised by the genuine efforts to unite the country’s centrist forces, by the strong public statements from numerous key figures, and also by the process that led to the election of the alliance’s leader and the new party’s founding convention, have been dashed.
The coming days will bring accusations and a blame game that will only further erode sentiment regarding the alliance and its prospects. The “new,” “different” and “united” center will cease to exist. KINAL has by default become something small and more “traditional,” in the sense of being more static.
To Potami was the smallest party in the alliance but it stood apart thanks to its liberal, progressive ideals and the quality of many of its officials, giving rise to expectations that it could help the movement grow as a force and possibly play the role of a third pole in the Greek political system.
Those who benefit most by its fragmentation are the two main parties, ruling leftist SYRIZA and center-right main opposition New Democracy, especially the latter, which now feels it has more hope of forming a majority at the next general elections, although the goal still seems difficult.
Even if PASOK, in the form of the “smaller” KINAL, and To Potami – if the latter makes it into Parliament next time around, which looks ambitious – are called upon to play a pivotal role as kingmakers, their respective weakened positions will restrict their ability to influence political developments.
Last, but definitely not least, there is another dimension too, which doesn’t have to do so much with the domestic political scene, but more with how the country is perceived abroad. If PASOK and To Potami do not run together in the next elections, it is very likely that far-right Golden Dawn will clinch third place again.
If this should be the case, it will be harder for many of us to argue that the party’s popularity is mainly a reaction to the economic crisis and not due to other factors and characteristics of part of Greek society.