Greek center-left locked in civil strife

Greek center-left locked in civil strife

It is an exaggeration to say that the far-right in Greece is stronger than ever because this assumes a unity in a fragmented and internally conflicted space. Meanwhile, in France, Marine Le Pen’s party National Rally (RN) garnered over 30% in the recent European Parliament elections, forcing President Emmanuel Macron to call early elections; in Austria, the Freedom Party emerged as the largest in the country and is vying for its own commissioner in the new Commission; and in Germany, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) came first in many former East German states, despite recent scandals. Interesting questions in Greece are why the protest vote against the conservative government was not captured by the center-left (SYRIZA, PASOK, New Left), and why the New Democracy party feels accountable to its conservative voters while polls show that it was mainly centrists that defected from its ranks.

The questioning of Nikos Androulakis that surfaced on Wednesday within PASOK, as well as the toxic attacks by SYRIZA chief Stefanos Kasselakis against the MPs of New Left, a SYRIZA splinter grouping, reflect the deep crisis that the center-left has been in for years. From the failed initiative of the “58” to the successive renamings of PASOK (which changed its name to Democratic Alignment and then to Movement for Change before switching back to PASOK), the election of Kasselakis to the leadership of the main opposition, and the formation of the New Left, the recent history of the space is a series of splits, disappointments, renamings and referendums. It is not surprising that many centrist and center-left voters placed their hopes in Kyriakos Mitsotakis as a politician who could transcend dividing lines and govern. They voted for him in New Democracy’s leadership elections, put trust in him in 2019, and again in 2023, albeit with heavy hearts.

Sunday’s result shows that their expectations are starting to abate. According to reports, “New Democracy recorded a drop of about 12-13% in the centrist space, a reduction numerically similar to the share the ruling party lost compared to the 2023 national elections.” In an interview Mitsotakis gave Wednesday, he persisted in self-flagellation over the impact of the government’s contentious legislation on same-sex marriage. It’s as if he fails to reckon the impact of everyday issues. The cost of living, public health and education, public transport, housing: All of these could be fertile ground for the center-left, if it were not so deeply immersed in perpetual civil strife.

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