Almost 180,000 voters turned up to the Movement for Change (KINAL) polls on Sunday (voting to rebrand the centrist alliance as PASOK-KINAL), confirming the enduring appeal of the party that governed Greece for more than two decades and its ability to raise expectations. Opinion polls show the party will finish third in the next general election, collecting considerably more than the 8.1 percent it won in 2019.
This means that a major topic after the elections will be the prospect of a New Democracy-PASOK coalition if the conservatives fail to secure an absolute majority.
PASOK leader Nikos Androulakis has ruled out forming a coalition government, saying he does not intend to make Kyriakos Mitsotakis or his leftist rival, Alexis Tsipras, for that matter, prime minister.
However, the reality of Greek politics – also considering the country’s economic problems and institutional failings – calls for a responsible stance and tough decisions. Political uncertainty and an unstable government could throw the country into disarray.
Some people believe that ND is still PASOK’s main rival. They also believe that SYRIZA and PASOK share socialist family resemblances which should make way for a social democratic coalition.
However, the process of globalization and the predominance of liberal democracy has seen the old left-right political dichotomies abate. The new dividing line is one between populists and pragmatists – that is, between the parties which, guided by their ideological obsessions, present voters with a virtual reality, and those which prefer to treat reality with realism and seriousness and govern with both feet on the ground.
SYRIZA proved to be the king of populism. It climbed to power pledging handouts and tax cuts, only to bring the country to the verge of eurozone exit and eventually sign up to the toughest bailout agreement. It joined a coalition with Independent Greeks, a small nationalist populist party led by Panos Kammenos, sought to manipulate the institutions, and even tried to put its political rivals behind bars.
Androulakis may deem that entering a coalition with ND would damage PASOK. But if he lands the country in trouble by seeking to collaborate with SYRIZA, he risks alienating all those voters who refused to cast an opportunistic vote in favor of Tsipras, who did not turn their back on PASOK during the party’s political decline, and who have now returned vindicated.
That is unless PASOK socialists come second in the elections, a result that would make them kingmakers.