Divorced from reality

Greece faces unprecedented challenges. It is in a state of controlled default, the middle class is coming apart, a growing number of people are slipping below the poverty line, hundreds of thousands are unable to pay back loans, and more than a million people are unemployed.

Nevertheless, the Greek political system appears incapable of rising to the challenges. The two main parties, PASOK and New Democracy, are doing all they can to galvanize their fighting forces as voters seem unusually drawn to the parties on the fringes.

Under Evangelos Venizelos, PASOK is on the slide. The party?s position on the political spectrum is gradually being occupied by Alexis Tsipras?s SYRIZA. Politically outspoken and aggressive, SYRIZA is now attracting the most radical elements of the electorate. Politically speaking, this feels like a return to 1974. PASOK is disintegrating as the core of its voters swings to the left.

Antonis Samaras was elected president of ND thanks to support from the party?s so-called popular right. His mission was to transform the Greek right in line with European standards. He failed to deliver. Hence the emergence of Panos Kammenos?s Independent Greeks who are expected to make a strong showing on May 6. PASOK is going down, but it seems ND has come apart. Conservatives can only hope that the division will be temporary. Samaras is putting up a strong fight and the recent intervention by former Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has helped to energize grassroot supporters.

Still, forming an absolute majority appears highly unlikely and the intensity of the confrontation between the two rivals suggests that post-election cooperation (which will in any case be imposed as a result of both outside and inside pressure) will be far from harmonious. If the two — who have tried to convince voters that they alone can guarantee Greece?s membership of the European system — fail to work together, they will push the nation over the cliff.

If PASOK and ND had really grasped the new reality, they would be working hard to ensure a strong combined presence in the next parliament, rather than aiming at forming a one-party government that will ?save Greece.?

Whether they like it or not, the two parties are essentially being pushed to adopt a policy that has consistently been put forward by Democratic Alliance chief Dora Bakoyannis — a politician that this commentator did not support in ND?s leadership race.