One thing is certain: The honeymoon is over for New Democracy. Up until quite recently, the ruling conservatives had reason to hope that they could secure a large enough majority in the next elections to comfortably govern for another four years and see through their reformist agenda.
The prospect of an easy majority is slipping out of reach; however, this is a result of developments that have nothing to do with the party itself. Inside the country, the resurrection of PASOK since the leadership election at Movement for Change (KINAL) is providing a way out for center-left supporters who voted for New Democracy in 2019 even though they don’t like it. Outside its borders, inflation and rising prices triggered by the pandemic and the energy crisis look like they won’t be going away anytime soon. Moreover, an accumulation of sins in the area of public health have put Greece among the European countries with the highest Covid-19 death rate.
These factors combined with the usual slump that comes with governing means that the ruling party is losing votes, whether it is to blame or not. It’s a shame that things have worked out like this, because compared to our experiences in the recent past, the government that emerged from the 2019 elections was a very positive development.
Governments who see their majority coming under threat often resort to handouts and other populist measures that will help them hold onto voters. New Democracy must not take this path
Within a very short space of time, it restored the country’s international reputation, regained the trust of the markets and embarked on a string of reforms in the public administration and education. These are essential reforms which, however, carry a political cost at first. It is also carrying out a defense procurement program that will shield the country against the Turkish threat.
Even though the government has brought results in a relatively short period of time, public opinion polls are reflecting signs of flagging popularity that may worsen. In such circumstances, governments who see their majority coming under threat often resort to handouts and other populist measures that will help them hold onto voters. New Democracy must not take this path, because if there is one thing that has distinguished it from other parties – and even from its former self – it is gravitas. It made citizens feel that they finally had a government of responsible individuals with the principles, abilities and inclination to build something. If it’s hoping to secure long-term gains, the party must not jeopardize this element for the sake of short-term expedience. It is solid and strong enough not to fear for its survival.
The other obvious reason to show restraint is that the country cannot afford a spending spree. Nevertheless, Greece is, alas, prematurely entering a pre-election period. The absence of a permanent electoral system makes at least two rounds of voting a near certainty, meaning an extended period of instability. Experience has shown that wisdom and discipline tend to go out the window in such circumstances. Thankfully, we are still under surveillance from our creditors – like it or not.