Nikos Androulakis’ clear lead in the first round of the Movement for Change (KINAL) elections for a new party leader, coupled with the support he has received from Andreas Loverdos, who came third, as well as the ideological and personal dynamics inside the party, will most likely transport the 42-year-old member of the European Parliament into the top seat of the center-left coalition.
His 9% lead over second-placed George Papandreou is significant, while it is also difficult to see from where the former prime minister could draw enough support to turn the tide in this Sunday’s runoff.
With broad geographical support and the sense of renewal he brings to the political scene, Androulakis is looking at a promising future – both in the short term, with respect to the upcoming second round of the internal elections, as well as the medium term and his role on the national political scene.
Which brings us to George Papandreou. Hope may die last in politics, but the numbers do not bode well and the messages are so loud and clear, they’re impossible to ignore. It’s not just that he lost to Androulakis by 9% and barely made it to second place in front of Loverdos; nor is it that the other three candidates were unable to grant him support as a result of his rival’s resounding lead. What counts even more negatively against Papandreou is the disappointment of his supporters, many of whom believed he would win with a landslide, perhaps even get elected in the first round.
Last Sunday’s defeat will keep many of them away from the second round, while his failure to secure the support of Loverdos – the only factor that could have turned the tide – means the votes simply don’t add up.
One thing Papandreou could have done is conceded defeat and expressed support for the party’s renewal as embodied by Androulakis, instead of accusing him of being a mouthpiece for the old guard and a key player in the distribution of power during the New Democracy-PASOK-Democratic Left government (2012-13), which, by the way, Papandreou himself supported with his votes in Parliament.
On the other hand, not having a second round would have deprived Androulakis of the legitimacy that comes from an absolute majority, and perhaps even a landslide victory.
Either way, it would be preferable if, instead of attacking his party rival, George Papandreou sent a message of unity. It would be better for him down the line, as it would be for KINAL, which does not need such divisions and squabbles inside the party ranks as it tries to make a new start.
And if he loses again on Sunday, he would be better off standing beside the young man and new party chief, offering help with his long experience and international contacts.
Society would most likely be sympathetic and look well on a former prime minister who was generous toward the new generation.
His refusal or inability to accept reality is doing Papandreou himself more harm than anyone else.