Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ SYRIZA party paid a hefty price for its lack of emotional intelligence.
Several simple conclusions emerged from last Sunday’s elections. SYRIZA was roundly defeated and this defeat was not due exclusively to the name deal with North Macedonia, but also to its style of governance. It paid – with interest – for its lack of emotional intelligence and its tolerance for loathsome behavior like that of Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis.
Opposition chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his New Democracy party did not just win Sunday’s elections, they also laid the foundations for the conservatives to receive a serious boost in the upcoming general election by a margin that has not been seen since before the crisis.
Movement for Change (KINAL) managed to hold its own, but it failed to grow into a calculable force that could form the third pole of the political system. This is something that its officials need to seriously consider, especially if SYRIZA continues to disregard the fact that it failed as it did because its policy was mainly limited to rhetoric. As every election since the end of the 1967-74 dictatorship has shown us, Greek voters are ultimately put off by histrionics.
In other words, SYRIZA was presented with a golden opportunity to make a substantial shift toward social democracy. However, for the past three years the party has been hijacked by a parochial minority.
The debate about the soul of Greek social democracy is timely. Notwithstanding the fact that European social democracy – at least in its traditional form – is in decline, that particular space on the political spectrum appears to be in a process of a multipronged transformation.
The example of the Greens in Germany and the rise of the liberals on a pan-European level illustrate that the so-called “middle ground” (in the broader sense of the term) is there for the taking by parties that express something different that goes beyond divisions along traditional party lines.
Under the present circumstances in Greece, New Democracy is in a position to take that middle ground almost unchallenged. Costas Karamanlis had achieved it in 2004 and it was this same block of voters that allowed PASOK’s Costas Simitis to rule for eight consecutive years. The support of those voters doesn’t depend on economic policy alone – it takes more to woo them. “It’s not just the economy, stupid,” one could advise Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ aides.