Tough political tango

Tough political tango

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece’s conservative leader, is engaged in a political tango with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Their dance does not follow a predefined choreography. It was never planned; it just happened. Politically speaking, however, it serves both sides at a very crucial moment as they are both facing a tough electoral challenge. 

Erdogan may be the Greek prime minister’s biggest secret weapon in the runup to the ballot. The impact is hard to measure but there is no doubt that every time Erdogan attacks Mitsotakis, he gifts the Greek leader a few points at the polls and makes undecided voters more likely to tip toward him. Such attacks are almost an obsession by now; not a single day passes without some Turkish official lashing out against Greece’s prime minister.

Mitsotakis is not the only one scoring political points though. Turkish analysts say that with every attack against Mitsotakis or Greece, Erdogan manages to boost his popularity in polls. For the first time in decades, Greece is making headlines while being on Turkey’s “enemies list.” Greece-bashing is proving to be a popular tactic also among Turkey’s opposition.

For his part, Mitsotakis has ratcheted up his rhetoric against Turkey, but without ever crossing the line. He can clearly argue that he made decisions which will boost Greece’s defense capabilities. Ramping up security along the Evros border with Turkey and prospecting for energy resources are strongly valued by a large chunk of voters. Mitsotakis has thereby been able to energize voters that might otherwise remain ambivalent. He has also prevented leaks, mostly to the right of his New Democracy party.

Alexis Tsipras, the leftist opposition leader, is no match for Mitsotakis in this area. Even less so given that the positions expressed on these issues by a considerable section of the party folk echo the days when SYRIZA was still a marginal left-wing formation struggling to enter Parliament. 

Should the dance progress smoothly, it could boost the re-election chances of both Mitsotakis and Erdogan. Sure, these are not super-rehearsed dance moves. There is a lot of room for missteps and miscalculations. It takes two to tango; but, on the other hand, a large number of important players and officials are watching; one bad move from any of the bystanders could turn the tango into an ugly fight. 

Assuming that everything goes well and that the confrontation is reduced to verbal combat until ballots are held on both sides of the Aegean – meaning that no heated incident occurs and that Erdogan’s “we will come at night” goes down as a successful campaign slogan in Turkey’s political history – the toughest tango will be post-election. But it’s too early to worry about that. 

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.