New Democracy strengthens liberal profile

Dora Bakoyannis?s successful collaboration with the president of New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, demonstrated wisdom and courage as there was much that separated the two — of a personal, political and ideological nature — at least up to a point. Political leaders who are unbending are divorced from reality.

Bakoyannis, the officials of her now-disbanded Democratic Alliance and the overwhelming majority of those who voted for her belong to the liberal wing of New Democracy, a party that has been able to draw supporters from across the political spectrum. If, instead of collaboration, she had chosen to simply rejoin the party, cadres who had not dared to join her when she left would have started rallying around her and the result would have meant a pre-election period overshadowed by a race for succession to the party?s leadership.

There are of course those who are concerned that this collaboration will bring about a change in ND?s ideological positions, but this is not the time to address them, as these concerns are mere luxuries right now, and quite adolescent. There are some MPs — a handful — who are said to be concerned that the introduction to the party of Bakoyannis?s former cadres may cost them their seat in Parliament in the next election. If these reports are true, then these MPs are allowing themselves to give in to defeatism.

Others are trying to calculate what this collaboration means in numbers, what percentage of the June 17 vote a cooperation of the center-right will be able to gain. Logistics aside, the collaboration with Bakoyannis will certainly strengthen New Democracy?s liberal, European profile.

The big problem was and is the populist right. Past and present overtures to New Democracy by former MPs of the ultra-nationalist Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) will do nothing to bring in more traditional ND voters. These people draw from ND?s pool of voters but their inclusion in the party will only bring a few extra votes. The bulk of LAOS voters gravitated to Independent Greeks, which is composed of ND rebels, and to Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn).

New Democracy should not aim at increasing its populist vote and should avoid amateurish extremes. Its focus needs to be on the liberal wing and it needs to go into the electoral battle with this platform, even if that means losses, compared to other years. It would also be wise for it to stop exchanging barbs with Independent Greeks, especially given that the natural target has always been and always will be the left, in all its manifestations.