OPINION

It?s too late to beat the left

PASOK and New Democracy have finally woken up and are peering about, wondering what they can do to reverse the rising popularity of the left — a threat to the two-party system that has prevailed in Greece since the end of the civil war — as its stance against austerity measures increasingly acts as a draw for voters not just away from the Socialist camp but also from the conservatives.

In his speech in Parliament on Tuesday, ND chief Antonis Samaras lambasted the left, saying it ?may have never governed, but it exerted influence and supported situations that are sick and incredible distortions.? A short time ago, Samaras visited the central police headquarters in order to give his support to the officers following the riots in Athens last month, in which riot police were injured and dozens of buildings in central Athens looted and burned. It would be inane to attribute Samaras?s stance to the induction into his party of two former members of the far-right LAOS, as his genuine reflexes are those of a conservative politician.

PASOK, meanwhile, under the presidency of George Papandreou and more recently via Evangelos Venizelos — finance minister and hopeful Papandreou successor — also launched a scathing criticism against the left. Venizelos accused the left of championing Greece?s exit from the eurozone and return to the drachma, which will lead to the destruction of the country and the impoverishment of its citizens. With his fiery rhetoric and passion, however, Venizelos risks pushing the country closer to the drachma himself.

Back on the issue of the left, it is interesting to see the two main parties ganging up against the left, though their reaction is long-delayed. Over the course of the past 30-odd years, the left has stood against all middle-class political parties, not just with its protest rallies, but mainly through its influence in the cultural arena. Moreover, the participation of the left in the unity government of 1989 under ND, and the ensuing support it gave through Xenophon Zolotas to the ND-PASOK-Synaspismos government, legitimized its role as a political force in Greece.

The left is no longer just a part of the system; it is the system. Turning this around is not something that can be achieved with opportunistic tactics within a few months because elections are looming ahead, especially when the economy is collapsing, the middle class is disappearing and incomes are dwindling.

With their irrational tactics, PASOK and ND have shaken their houses to their very foundations and they will end up inheriting nothing at all.