The terms of the political game leading up to the next general election in Greece – whenever that ends up taking place – have become much clearer following the conclusion of the congress of the PASOK-KINAL (Movement for Change) socialist party.
Conservative New Democracy Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has long made his strategy known, and will be seeking to form a majority government after the second round of voting. The dilemma he will present voters with is “majority or instability,” while at the same time reminding them of the turbulent period Greece experienced under the power-sharing SYRIZA government, years that still send chills down the spines of many voters who backed New Democracy in the last election but have since drifted away from the party.
Main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras insists on what he describes as “progressive governance,” but his strategy comes up against two serious stumbling blocks.
KKE and MeRA25 could not muster the votes to form a government without PASOK, even if they did want to team up with SYRIZA, which they don’t
The first is that the parties he is reaching out to in order to potentially form a power-sharing government are not really interested in doing so. PASOK-KINAL has resisted all of his – blatantly insincere – charm offensives, while PASOK loyalists have not forgotten the vitriolic attacks against the party from the leftists in the past. Most of those who left PASOK have already drifted over to SYRIZA. The Greek Communist Party (KKE) and the far-left MeRA25, meanwhile, could not muster the votes to form a government without PASOK, even if they did want to team up with SYRIZA, which they don’t.
The second stumbling block standing in SYRIZA’s way is the assumption that it will come first in the polls and be in a position to form a government. Given the present situation, this seems extremely unlikely. In the three years since it lost the election to New Democracy in the summer of 2019, the main opposition party has only one thing to show: that it has been unable to benefit from the inevitable strain the government has come under but has also failed to improve its relationship with the other parties or in any way influence the dynamic of the political scene.
The only thing it is banking on is incessant and abject negativity and its only hope of reversing the trend in its favor is a serious worsening of the different crises we are facing. The situation would have to deteriorate to such a degree for SYRIZA to come out on top, however, that it is unlikely any government would be in a position to manage it.
PASOK’s recently elected chief, Nikos Androulakis, for his part, insists on the tried-and-true strategy of maintaining an equal distance between the two main parties and strengthening his own. His key goal is to narrow the distance with SYRIZA so that his party can find itself in the role of kingmaker after the next election. Given the current system of simple proportional representation, it is a strategy that is likely to succeed. In the next round, however, PASOK-KINAL will come under incredible pressure and may have to adopt very specific positions on how it will contribute to prevent a period of instability until a solid government can be formed.