OPINION

New Democracy?s about-face

Never before in the post-1974 period have the leaders of Greece?s two mainstream parties found themselves faced with so much in-party division that has not been the result of personal rivalries.

New Democracy and PASOK have traditionally had a deep well of supporters. Sure, there were conflicting trends but leaders in both camps were able to impose the party line, mainly thanks to the promise of power.

The ?PASOK project? worked until it went bankrupt after stewarding the country into economic and social decline. But ND was never able to leave its own mark; it just sailed along, if awkwardly.

No one thought the leaders of PASOK and ND were really capable of dealing with serious issues and now they are only executing the dictates of the nation?s foreign lenders. New PASOK leader and former Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos has styled himself as a champion of the reforms commanded by the so-called troika. Antonis Samaras, the conservative leader and prospective prime minister, appears to have belatedly realized the positive aspects of the second bailout plan.

Nevertheless, one would expect more effective management on a tactical level after a considerable number of socialist and conservative deputies voted against the second rescue package in Parliament. Both parties decided to eject the MPs who broke the party line. And they should have stuck by their decision.

In the case of PASOK, perhaps, the about-turn was to be expected. The repeated transformations of the socialist party over the years have left its political capital seriously damaged. PASOK has turned from what was a radical movement into a proponent of economic liberalism.

But New Democracy is a different case. It has mostly represented the country?s conservative voters (and some of the liberal ones too) since Dimitrios Gounaris established the Popular Party in the early 1900s. The conservative party does not belong to any of its leaders, in the sense that PASOK has since its creation by Andreas Papandreou. The gradual reinstatement of the deputies only a few weeks after they voted down the memorandum reduces the parties? credibility.

Samaras could have issued a general, unconditional call to those he has ejected from the party — including Dora Bakoyannis and Panos Kammenos who have made their own parties. Since he is not going to do this, he should stop with this eclectic forgiveness of those who disapproved of his spectacular about-face on the country?s bailout program.