The political quarrel between Adonis Georgiadis and the center-left Movement for Change alliance (KINAL) following the conservative development and investments minister’s remarks regarding measures protecting primary residences against foreclosure has in a peculiar way underscored the need for a reliable centrist party as a tool for monitoring, evaluating and comparing political and economic developments.
This column will not focus on the merit of the foreclosure protection legislation, or on whether relevant measures should stay in place and to what extent as the country gradually returns to normality in the wake of a 10-year financial crisis. Nor will it discuss the degree to which such measures actually protect debtors who are genuinely incapable of meeting their mortgage obligations or if they are in fact a breeding ground for strategic defaulters whose audacity reached unprecedented levels during the crisis years.
The New Democracy minister quipped that KINAL was infected with SYRIZA. One might say that was a witty remark that resounded with his voters, but, at the same time, it alluded to the role that a sizable centrist party could play in the Greek political system.
What we need is a sober political voice, a political glue of sorts that will help forge consensus across the political spectrum, bring some ideological balance to the political system and serve as coalition partner for the bigger parties when necessary. This is a timely concern given that the next general election will take place under the simple proportional representation system legislated by the previous SYRIZA administration. Meanwhile, in the election after that, the winner will get a smaller seats bonus.
It should not come as any surprise that Georgiadis seemed more interested in the stance of KINAL than SYRIZA. KINAL occupies a political space where the New Democracy minister is looking for some recognition of his work and possibly even votes. SYRIZA opposition, on the other hand, in Georgiadis’ mind can produce nothing but sterile rejectionism.
So far, KINAL has not really fulfilled expectations of this sort. True, the timing is not good. Greece’s middle ground is under pressure from both sides. On the right, conservative chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis is pushing ahead with a liberal policy program which appeals to the political center. Meanwhile, on the left, ex-premier Alexis Tsipras is trying to pull SYRIZA toward the center.
A centrist political grouping would act as “assessment ground,” playing a useful role in gauging the policies of the government (in fact, any government), hard as it may be to imagine it getting a big number of votes in the current political context.