A leap of faith for renewal
There are two takeaways from the election of a new leader at Movement for Change. The first is that PASOK – the center-left coalition’s biggest party – is back, and the reason is not nostalgia. If that were the case, the party founder’s son would have sailed to victory.
The fact that the number of voters who turned up for the first round accounted for 67% of those who cast their ballot for KINAL in 2019, and that in some districts there were even more than in the general election, is indicative of what lies ahead. There is clearly room for PASOK to become a key player in the center-left again.
This unexpected turnout can be interpreted in myriad ways. The ability of Nikos Androulakis’ team to mobilize citizens – a skill learned at university – may have played a role. On the other hand, it may even point to a kind of admission by voters that they unfairly punished the Socialists during the tough years of the financial crisis. PASOK took a disproportionately big part of the blame for sins committed by the political system as a whole. It paid an even higher price than New Democracy, under whose leadership (especially in the 2007-09 period) Greece went bankrupt after a long-simmering financial decline.
The second point worth noting is that the demand for renewal swept away traditions and KINAL’s biggest names. So strong is that demand that voters acted on faith alone, as we have yet to get a clear idea of where the party’s new leader stands on key issues and have little idea of his political “character.” It may, however – as was the case with SYRIZA’s Alexis Tsipras – also point to a younger generation of voters who want to see more people their own age in positions of political power and influence.
In that case, the KINAL election for a new leader may not only be a defeat for George Papandreou – though he has borne the brunt of it; it may also be a farewell gesture to the entire older generation of PASOK cadres. There were no gray heads in the new leader’s entourage as he celebrated his win.
The renewal, therefore, began last Sunday for KINAL – with all the good things this entails, as well as the absence of knowledge and/or experience. This is not a deadly sin, though. Knowledge and experience are things that can be acquired by the new team leading KINAL-PASOK along the way. We just hope that, in contrast to SYRIZA, where a new generation also took over, this knowledge and experience will not be gained at the country’s expense. And this is the toughest task Androulakis faces.