Existential angst

PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos wants to see more Socialist cadres participating in the conservative-led coalition while Fotis Kouvelis, the leader of the junior government partner Democratic Left, occasionally takes shots at the administration. To be sure, they could have made claims for more substantial involvement earlier, but they probably deemed that it would be politically damaging.

They were wrong – not because the government’s policy has suddenly won people’s hearts and minds. Quite the opposite in fact. The reason is that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has succeeded in creating the impression that an implementation of Greece’s economic reform program hinges on him alone.

Even if cadres from PASOK (even Venizelos himself), or even from Democratic Left for that matter, took up a ministerial role, this would not suffice to arrest the yawning gap between the government and voters.

Conservative voters are still gravitating toward Golden Dawn although Panos Kammenos’s Independent Greeks party has also managed to hold its own as a bulwark against far-right anti-establishment right. Meanwhile, SYRIZA appears unable to go to the extra mile.

Furthermore, the decline of once-dominant PASOK, as reflected in all recent opinion polls, reinforces the conviction that the coalition’s election base is on the wane.

In the last election, Samaras succeeded in attracting a considerable number of center-left voters who were shaken by SYRIZA’s precipitous rise last May. This fed into ND’s electoral power but it killed the party as the political vehicle of the Greek right.

Now Venizelos, after his failure to merge with Democratic Left, is aiming at freeing up traditional left-of-center voters who have temporarily – as PASOK wishes to believe – sided with Samaras.

This is why Venizelos is pushing for a substantial reshuffle. He is in other words trying to transform the coalition from a conservative-led coalition into a power-sharing and responsibility-sharing government. The reason for this, of course, is his own survival after the elections.

However, Samaras is driven by similar motives. Should the ND leader relinquish his dominant role in the three-party coalition, he will suffer a hefty political blow because the rightist voters who elected him party leader have already shifted toward Golden Dawn and Independent Greeks.

That said, the survival of the coalition is not in question. The anxiety of the junior partners is more the product of adult existential angst. The system has achieved equilibrium because it has reached a political dead end.