New Democracy has always been haunted by demons. These appear to have been exorcised during Wednesday’s event at the Karamanlis Foundation where former prime minister Kostas Karamanlis featured as keynote speaker. The demons have been well-documented: rivalries between baronies and, occasionally, families; personal disputes which are rarely driven by ideology and are rather pure power struggles between individuals; backstabbing during crucial periods. All that has taken a hefty toll on the center-right party as well as the country.
It was an important speech by Karamanlis and it was seen as such also among pundits that have been critical of the conservative politician in the past. We need interventions of this nature from people who have been at the helm of the country. They have an obligation to speak and we have an obligation to listen to what they have to say, regardless whether we agree or not.
Many would like to see New Democracy once again be consumed by its demons. They will hopefully be disappointed. Their schadenfreude is driven by hostility or partisan expediency. It may also be shared by those who snub mainstream parties for the sake of smaller boutique-style parties, which attract few but select votes.
New Democracy is a big tent. It has always extended from the popular, patriotic Right to the liberal, progressive center. Ideally, we would all want to be under the same political umbrella with people with whom we agree on 80-90 percent of the issues that concern the country. Sure, we can have a good night out with these people. But no one can govern with the backing of negligent minorities alone.
Big parties are becoming a thing of the past in Europe, but New Democracy is still resisting the trend. Meanwhile, its leader is the only center-right prime minister in Europe (with the exception of the Czech Republic). This is remarkable in itself. And it is the product of compromise, trade-offs, and back-and-forths. That said, New Democracy continues to be that party which can bring together modern ideas on social issues, on new entrepreneurship and the role of education in society. At the same time, it expresses reasonable patriotism on issues that concern border security and national defense.
It can be a tricky mix that requires cautious and delicate handling from all sides.