Changes, mistakes and swinging voters led to a crushing defeat

The convergence of two different forces in demanding the removal of the PASOK establishment from power led to a crushing defeat. Changing captain in midstream had no effect, though at first it rallied the party faithful and created the air of optimism seen at the festive election of George Papandreou by a million party members and friends. The irony is that the myth of the victorious prince began to fade the very next day. The transfer of Stefanos Manos, Andreas Andrianopoulos, Mimis Androulakis and Maria Damanaki was the greatest in a series of mistakes he made during the election campaign. It caused shock and deep rifts among grassroots PASOK supporters. And as if that were not enough, at the beginning of the election campaign, Papandreou seemed unprepared to claim entitlement to the post of premier, despite his many years as a minister. These actions had a regressive effect. After the first wave of enthusiasm, second thoughts prevailed, dominated by skepticism about the new leader’s intentions and abilities. This came on top of the negative feelings that had built up among a large number of center-left voters as a result of the policies and establishment mentality of Costas Simitis’s government. Significantly, as the outgoing premier arrived at PASOK’s offices on Harilaou Trikoupi Street, he was greeted by the slogan, «The people don’t forget who took their money!» It was a reminder of his responsibility for the plunder of the savings of hundreds of thousands of households. At first Papandreou kept his distance and criticized some mistakes made during the eight-year term, rallying around him even those who were dissatisfied with the works and deeds of the reformists. But he went on to talk of a «powerful Greece» and presented himself as the continuation of the Simitis era and not a breakaway. This was evident in the final weeks of the campaign when he employed the sterile anti-right-wing rhetoric of his predecessor. There is no doubt that the father of the defeat was Costas Simitis. At the beginning it seemed the defeat would be smaller, but the fact that it took on such great dimensions is due to the regression mentioned above, which was caused by the mistakes and the partial demystification of Papandreou. A current developed in society for the removal of the PASOK establishment from power. But despite the bombardment of television, voters weren’t fooled by virtual reality. To a great extent they retained their independence, showing that politics cannot be replaced by media tricks for long. The overwhelming victory of ND was largely but not solely due to negative votes. Karamanlis has been trying for years to change the image of his party. His political discourse is moderate, socially sensitive, and centrist. An important part was also played by the fact that he found himself in the sights of the entangled political and economic interests that have supported Simitis for years. All that helped generate a dissatisfied center-leftist swing to ND, and it is mainly these voters who provided the victory. A large proportion of them voted solely to get rid of the PASOK establishment. Theirs is a swinging vote, not an electoral migration. In practice it means that from the political, though not the institutional, viewpoint the popular mandate is narrower than the electoral result suggests. In other words, almost from the outset these voters will adopt a critical stance toward the new government.