Tom Ellis TOM ELLIS

The behavior of former prime ministers

COMMENT

TAGS: Politics

The three trends within the ruling party are well known and are generally represented by current Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and former premiers Antonis Samaras and Costas Karamanlis.

The latter remains popular among an important segment of voters. His relationship to New Democracy’s founder Konstantinos Karamanlis and his long stay at the helm of the party (12 years) and the country (five-and-a-half years) further boost his appeal. 

However, whatever concerns he may have, he has not created any problems for the current premier. Maybe because he has nothing to prove. It was his decision to retire and he has remained quiet ever since. One may disagree with his silence – including this writer who believes that people who have governed the country have a duty to participate in the public debate, obviously sparingly and soberly – but what is certain is that he has not interfered with the party’s domestic affairs.

On the other hand, the different approach of Samaras raises questions. His attitude is a matter of concern, even to those of us who think he was a good prime minister at a very difficult time. Despite his anti-bailout rhetoric – it is one thing to highlight the weaknesses of the bailout program but support it to help the country exit the dark tunnel, and quite another to raise the tone in speeches at Zappeion – he was effective when he came to power.

There is no reason to go into detail about the 18.8 percent that ND got in the elections of 2012 with Samaras, when the party found itself close to annihilation, following in the footsteps of socialist PASOK. His term as PM was successful. Α well-meaning and objective observer would view it as positive. After two-and-a-half years, the economy turned a page. It was credited to Samaras and rightly so. I was at the IMF Spring Meetings in April 2014, when the word in the halls was of the “Greek miracle,” which was neither sudden nor painless.

Samaras was always on the go. He traveled from Berlin to Paris, from Beijing to Washington and from Jerusalem to Cairo. He put his health at risk. He was overly meticulous, insisting on handling every detail – but at times this can be an advantage. His efforts brought results. The 2012-14 period was an important chapter, but it is now over. And a lot has changed since then.

However, he was displeased with the selection of Katerina Sakellaropoulou as president of the Republic. He wanted to be the next president, as he had wanted to be a commissioner. If Karamanlis has been identified with an opening toward the center, Samaras represents the right wing of the party. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s an important part of both his party and Greek society. Some describe it as patriotic, others as nationalistic, but it is clearly the Right. 

It would have been extremely difficult for Mitsotakis to select him as president since that role belongs to a moderate, centrist figure accepted by the “other side” too.

His stance since the election of Sakellaropoulou to the post, and in other cases, is making the prime minister’s job difficult and is not in the interest of his party nor the country. It’s a pity for him to be acting the way he is, allowing for him to be remembered more for the internal divisions he is creating rather than the results he obtained during his two-and-a-half years as prime minister.

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