Those who believed that the strengthening of the center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) would only or mainly hurt leftist SYRIZA were mistaken.
The two parties are, to some extent, communicating vessels in the ideological spectrum of the center-left, but in democracies the main losses are suffered by the governing parties as they unavoidably make mistakes, not the opposition parties. The latter may be judged for the tone and soundness of their criticism, but it is not easy for them to suffer the same decline when they do not make decisions that affect people’s lives and do not implement measures that some may disagree with.
Even in developments for which no one is responsible, it’s the party in government that will be critized, sometimes even unfairly.
It is obvious that as KINAL occupies the middle ground, it can attract those who voted for New Democracy almost three years ago but may be dissatisfied today.
So, instead of seeing what was a rather logical and self-evident development – that is, the emergence of a SYRIZA-KINAL front – the government viewed the rise of the latter as a welcome development that would be to its own benefit.
And they wrongly believed that at this moment in time – that is quite different from 2012 when the country was on the brink of collapse – the party that wants social democracy to prevail would choose to co-govern with the conservatives again.
That analysis was a mistake and they handled the whole re-emergence of KINAL wrongly. The cost for the government is high as the possibility of securing a parliamentary majority is now being questioned.
How can it handle the deteriorating political landscape? As it has been pointed out, changing the electoral law again might serve the goal of securing a majority, but it would be a huge political faux pas. To some cynics, it may seem like a solution, but it would exude defeatism and inconsistency. You cannot win elections by showing absolute respect for the institutions only to step on them along the way.
The best response to the government’s slump is to improve its performance, and especially people’s daily lives. The innovations introduced by Digital Governance Minister Kyriakos Pierrakakis with the digitization of the state – actions that are recognized by everyone – are moves in this direction.
The ENFIA property tax – which is necessary and exists in all advanced countries – cost the government of former conservative premier Antonis Samaras who introduced it a lot.
Reducing it now, depending on what form this process will eventually take, may help with some sections of the electorate.
On the other hand, there is the negative dimension of these announcements, as they deprive the state coffers of a significant amount of budget revenues while, in combination with the continuous economic subsidies handed out, causing concern to institutions and investors. The recent performance of Greek bonds is proof of that.
With time running out and society displaying – for a number of reasons – punitive sentiments toward the government, the prime minister needs a narrative based on solid moral foundations. He needs to create optimism, not only among the business elite, but also for ordinary citizens, and in this effort to persuade them about his sincerity. The latter is perhaps the most important aspect of the effort.