This election campaign, seen by many as subdued, may turn out to be one of the most interesting we have ever watched here in Greece. Society and the political system are shifting. It will be very difficult to establish how stable this shift is and how long it will last.
The anti-systemic wave seems to have subsided. People’s exhaustion and the country’s lack of progress are powerful allies in the desire for “normalcy.” Naturally, nothing has been decided yet – election victories can indicate the direction the country may head in, but they are not enough to ensure it.
This election campaign is revealing for another reason: the transformation of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. His current course is reminiscent of a leaking water tank, and this is irrespective of the results of the European elections or the opinion polls.
The explanations provided for his change, which include the shock of the EU election results, the fact that main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is now setting the agenda, or that he has been forced into a low-key confrontation with his political opponent – a game he is not acquainted with – may be true, but they are not the whole story.
Tsipras is running out of ideas. He is becoming the “old” that he used to condemn. He invoked the support of the remnants of socialist PASOK during a recent television interview by “addressing the soul of the supporters of PASOK who grew up and lived with the memory of what a right-wing government really means.”
He also said he still considers it an advantage that SYRIZA has demonstrated that it is “a party of cooperation and not of arrogance.” Of course the only example of cooperation his party ever showed was the coalition with the nationalist, far-right Independent Greeks. His words ring hollow, unimaginative, repetitive and full of tired cliches from the past. He is in a tight spot which is shrinking. He used to thrive on polarization but now there are no grounds for it nor will the current climate tolerate it.
How many voters can be moved by the slogans about the “destructive Right” and the “Left of democracy and progress”? How many can be moved by the divisions that recent history has managed to overcome? Those voters who shifted between the main political parties, who remained silent and “homeless,” realize that no normalcy can be achieved with political labels.
People do not care about the labels Left and Right. They are looking forward, leaving skeletons and threats behind. This time, the silent voters are determined.