New Democracy’s challenges

There is a good deal of unease in New Democracy, and not just because of the defeat it suffered in Sunday’s polls. That had been expected, despite the optimistic and combatant messages from the prime minister’s office at Maximos Mansion in the pre-election period. What matters is that the fragmentation of the once unified, traditional right has now been completed, and beyond that, Independent Greeks (ANEL) is part of the SYRIZA-led government. Sure, in 1989 New Democracy joined forces briefly with the Greek Communist Party (KKE), but only in an effort to remove Andreas Papandreou from power.

The situation today is entirely different. Panos Kammenos and his MPs are participating in a left-wing government under Alexis Tsipras which, apparently, is here to stay. This means that part of the traditional right will benefit from whatever clientelist relationship or other advantages may be drawn from such a relationship and that as such Kammenos will continue to gain fans on the right.

It is also true that this union with ANEL does not sit well with certain SYRIZA cadres, but Tsipras hopes that the partnership will further weaken ND, given that Kammenos’s sights are firmly set on Antonis Samaras and that the fire of the government toward the former prime minister will not just come from the left.

From an opposition standpoint, Samaras will have to deal with Golden Dawn, which came third in the polls even though its leadership remians in pretrial custody. Samaras is also bound to find himself the target of the far-right party, which is looking forward to increasing its popularity mainly by objecting to SYRIZA’s expected stance toward immigration issues.

No other center-right leader has ever found himself, as the chief of the main opposition, in such an uncomfortable position.

Throughout his term in office, Samaras adopted so-called conservative rhetoric when addressing SYRIZA in the hope of winning back some of ND’s supporters who gravitated toward the left-wing party. He failed. The percentage that New Democracy acquired in Sunday’s elections did not come exclusively from the conservative camp and chances are that even more would have trickled away from the party if the policies it was pursuing had continued.

It is clear that New Democracy needs to write a new political narrative for itself so that it does not become another centrist party, does not play second fiddle to Golden Dawn or Independent Greeks, and is not perceived as a mouthpiece for the troika of international creditors. This is the challenge Samaras must address if he does not want to see the center-right suffering the same fate as PASOK.