Former Prime Minister George Papandreou did not surprise anyone by launching a new political movement three weeks before general elections. While the Papandreou clan has been known for leading developments and altering the Greek political stage, this may not necessarily be the case.
The father of the dynasty, Georgios Papandreou, is credited with the demise of the old regime, though this was clearly the work of the Crown. His heir and successor Andreas Papandreou did away with any concept of hierarchy when he was in power, though the coup of 1967 had set the groundwork for this. Finally, George Papandreou agreed the bailout deal with the troika of international lenders, a deal that was never fully implemented, and was ultimately overturned by the same establishment that had brought him to power. All three, and Andreas especially, also squandered public funds in a manner that was criminal at times.
Some say that Greece is a land of lotus-eaters, of a people with short memories. There is little value in such aphorisms. Now George Papandreou is back, stubborn and vengeful, to challenge the new status quo that is currently being formed by SYRIZA’s takeover of the voters who supported PASOK for 40 years.
It is clear that the conservative leadership has always belonged to the Karamanlis family and the Papandreou family stood at the other end, and anyone who doubted this suffered the consequences.
There are of course the country’s centrists and liberals – fewer in number than the other two – who are represented by the Mitsotakis family and Dora Bakoyannis at present, albeit within the framework of New Democracy.
The Greek political landscape has enjoyed remarkable stability for decades, with SYRIZA now upsetting the balance, and Papandreou’s initiative should not be expected to bring about any major changes – it is merely a ripple.
Without doubt, upsets in the political system have led to new political formations and personalities who in turn brought about a controlled rejuvenation and the creation of a new dynamic for overcoming the crisis. In the past, this role of regulator belonged to the monarch. George I established Eleftherios Venizelos, King Pavlos made Constantine Karamanlis prime minister and this in turn helped Georgios Papandreou sweep to power in the elections of 1964. In the years after the junta, the scope for such change diminished. The present crisis simply fragmented the right and allowed SYRIZA to emerge as a serious contender. That is the simple truth and we should just deal with it.