Graceful exit

After an active presence – and a prominent one for long periods of time – in the domestic political arena, Costas Mitsotakis told New Democracy’s parliamentary group yesterday that he would not seek re-election to Parliament in the coming elections. It is worth noting that he invested his resignation with political importance. In no uncertain terms, Mitsotakis linked his decision to quit politics to the ongoing debate over renewal. More precisely, he tied the move to the issue of the departure of the party’s old guard. Former diplomatic adviser Petros Molyviatis was the first to show the way, but the resignation of the former premier puts enormous pressure on conservative party barons to follow his example. Mitsotakis’s decision, no doubt, will facilitate New Democracy’s chairman. Karamanlis is making an understandable attempt to avoid imposing renewal from above: First, because he recognizes the contribution of veteran cadres and does not wish to tarnish their image, and, second, because their exclusion would cause a political rumpus and cast doubt on New Democracy’s image of unity. On the other hand, it is clear that the barons’ retirement will bestow an air of renewal on the party that will, in turn, yield immediate political and electoral gains. Their exit would reinforce the impression of fresh faces and bolster the conservatives’ chances of winning the vote. It is precisely this political symbolism and the connection between Mitsotakis’s move and the still-open issue of renewal that prompted a warm welcome by New Democracy’s Central Committee and the chairman himself. The warm, lengthy applause that greeted Mitsotakis’s announcement underscores the satisfaction of conservative officials with the apparent harmony between their former and current leaders. The conservative party has in the past suffered from division and, hence, sensitivity on issues of unity runs high. Appearances apart, it must be underlined that Mitsotakis’s decision to quit active politics leaves a large gap. And this is despite the fact that his political career has, indeed, come full circle. Parliament will miss him. Mitsotakis himself said yesterday that he can no longer contribute to Parliament as much as he would like to. The truth is that he has for years been a model parliamentarian. Consistent, well-prepared and highly active, he has set an example to the younger generation – and not only his colleagues. Even his fiercest critics give him credit for this. Mitsotakis is the last in a generation of politicians who treated the institution as a true temple of democracy. He will be sorely missed.

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