It was Sunday night, and Greek TV stations were still broadcasting the results of the elections when New Democracy chief Evangelos Meimarakis came under attack from the party members who once belonged to the ultranationalist LAOS. Two days ago, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who represents the part of New Democracy that espouses a more liberal and modernist approach, announced that he would run for party leader. Following Sunday’s defeat at the polls and the pressure he came under, it is hardly surprising that Meimarakis called a leadership contest so soon, and it appears – so far at least – that he has no desire to run against these young suitors.
As far as the ex-LAOS cadres are concerned, their narrative is obsolete. The memorandum they once opposed so vehemently has become a “necessary evil” among their ranks; and the anti-left, anti-migrant sentiment they once represented is now being much more forcefully championed by others.
They spent five years, when their party still existed, railing against the government of Costas Karamanlis. Once they saw LAOS collapse, they joined New Democracy under the leadership of Antonis Samaras, bringing with them a stronger bent to the right. The plan failed because the hard core of New Democracy rebeled and turned to other parties. It is unclear whether anyone from this bloc will be running in the election for the party’s presidency, but a desire for self-preservation should compel them not to.
Mitsotakis is an entirely different cup of tea, though he belongs to the minority. He would make a good leader in a party that was more like Potami, with stronger center-right reflexes. New Democracy is a party that has become extremely complicated and the risk of it losing even more support is greater with a president of a centrist-liberal disposition.
New Democracy needs a period of calm. While Meimarakis did a great job of bringing back many of the party’s traditional voters, he now faces a challenge that he is not willing to take on. The ND leadership contest had originally been planned for the spring of 2016. That meant there would have been time for discussion within the party, time to set some new foundations and to redefine New Democracy. But the young ones are not thinking in political terms; they are simply drawn to the idea of power like moths to a flame.
New Democracy faces serious challenges, foremost of which is finding a fresh face to oppose Alexis Tsipras. The “young” people in the party may be young in age, but they are certainly not fresh. Their faces have been all over the media for years. Their haste risks leading New Democracy to a rift that cannot be mended. They could have waited a few months.