OPINION

Moderate voices inside SYRIZA

moderate-voices-inside-syriza

The need for the kind of broad consensus that can only be achieved by overcoming ideological fixations has been stressed repeatedly. By its nature, the argument concerns all the political parties, but especially the big three, who have experience in government and a first-hand understanding of the challenges and limits of, say, fiscal reality.

Recently, the director of the Economic Office of the prime minister when Alexis Tsipras was in power, and then deputy minister to the PM in the SYRIZA government, Dimitris Liakos, criticized Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ announcement of a bonus of half a salary for thousands of health workers, as well as 250 euros for people on small pensions and disability benefits.

In an article in K-Report, he spoke of handouts with borrowed money and ill-learned lessons. He noted that the political system has entered into a “protracted pre-election period” and that popular measures are roundly welcomed and only little criticized, and warned that such decisions may weaken Greece’s position during negotiations for reviewing the Stability Pact with European creditors, while commenting that anyone who brings up this issue is “threatened with ostracism.” He also questioned whether there was sufficient fiscal space to allow such measures.

Some inside the leftist opposition have accused Liakos of conservative leanings. The most spirited reaction came from MP and former general secretary for economic relations Giorgos Tsipras, who said that even Germany’s Wolfgang Schaeuble would take a more moderate stance than Liakos and opined that “such ideas may have no place in SYRIZA.”

If SYRIZA hopes to ever be elected to government again, it will need “such ideas.” It doesn’t really matter whether Liakos is right or wrong; what matters is that a party eyeing the top job must not only tolerate but acknowledge the necessity of moderate voices – such as Liakos and former alternate finance minister Giorgos Houliarakis – even when these do not always agree with the seemingly single-minded ideological tenets of the party line.

If it wants to paint itself into a “pure-blooded” leftist corner, it is free to do so; it can even go back to the blanket rejectionism that had appealed to just 3% of voters.

If, however, it wants to govern, it needs to make overtures in the other direction, toward the center.

Ruling New Democracy did this successfully, thanks mainly to the centrist leadership of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which allowed the government to attract broader support beyond the traditional Right.

Parties can move in either direction on the ideological spectrum. They are judged by their choices and whether they expand their appeal and increase their percentage or restrict their reach and lose votes.