The election of a new president of Movement for Change (KINAL) is important for the country. With the exception of centrist Potami, the economic crisis swept parties into Parliament that were all about anger and frustration, leaving little room for something moderate and European.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis conquered the middle ground with his reformist profile and transplants from other parties. Today, though, a chunk of centrist voters are disappointed by certain moves and gestures aimed at New Democracy’s right-wing congregation. They are also angry at being taken for granted because they have nowhere else to go.
This may change with a new leadership at KINAL. Main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras knows that the highest he can aim for is 25-27% and sees a rise back to power slipping further and further away. Many of his voters had drifted over from PASOK and a new face there may convince them to return to their old sweetheart. In that case, Tsipras will logically feel the need to sever ties with SYRIZA’s hard core and turn toward the center. I say logically, because emotionally he is obviously unable to do so.
For Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a new boost for KINAL will bring him up against centrist voters who are already demanding as it is, and who may start feeling that they have an alternative. It will be a tricky balancing act for the prime minister: Centrist voters are more demanding, but right-wingers have a shorter fuse. The balance has been kept so far, but this needs to continue until the next general polls, as the new electoral law leaves little room for losing voters.
This is where things get tough. KINAL’s new president will want to go it alone, seeing any form of cooperation with ND as tantamount to political suicide. He will probably be guided by the belief that if his popularity holds, KINAL will be able to replace SYRIZA in the role of main opposition in the next two to four years.
What it will boil down to is that centrist voters, who tend to be pivotal to any election result, will have to choose between Mitsotakis or a drawn-out period of instability until a new government is formed. Will this dilemma be enough to sway them, though, or will it have the opposite effect at a time when voters seem to love being unpredictable? There is also the risk that some right-wing voters will abstain or cast their ballot for smaller parties.
The country will find its balance – and maybe this balance will be at the point where the prime minister gets the message that he cannot govern without a rival forever and demanding voters understand that you vote for what is capable of moving the county forward and not in hope that it will become the Denmark of the south.