New Democracy is projecting a very unfortunate image in its inability to set a date for its leadership contest, with no shortage of drama. Sure, this is in part the consequence of pushing forward the election of a new president by six months but such phenomena nevertheless belong firmly in the past.
That said, there are some issues clouding the process, notably the fact the one of the candidates, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, is not a member of Parliament. This has led some to argue that if the regional governor of Central Macedonia, whose terms ends in 2019, does win the race, he will not have a seat in the House from which he can excercise opposition against Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
The argument certainly has merit but it should not hold up the process as the problem will be resolved once it presents itself. After all, ND is already represented in Parliament by two former prime ministers, three candidates for the party leadership as well as numerous experienced officials. One of them will step forward to speak for the party’s parliamentary group.
At the end of the day, Tsipras is hardly a giant of rhetoric in his parliamentary appearances. He usually appears with speeches prepared by his associates, which he simply reads and embellishes with a few catchy one-liners for the sake of the television audience. Great political orators, like the legendary Georgios Papandreou, alluring yet often fateful, were of a breed that is long dead. The only speaker we have seen in recent years who has shown some talent on the podium is Evangelos Venizelos, the former leader of socialist PASOK, who was undoubtedly Tsipras’s sharpest and most eloquent critic. When he took the stand, even New Democracy MPs would rush into the chamber to enjoy his oratory and would have applauded him had they not been restricted by their sense of party loyalty. But Venizelos’s talents have fallen by the wayside as PASOK has collapsed.
No one can be happy about the fact that battles in Parliament between party chiefs are so rarely watched by the public and often commented on in a depreciatory fashion in the media the following day. And no one, not citizens nor politicians, can really believe that a party’s parliamentary presence can be diminished. However, the idea that a party president can settle for making a handful of popular appearances over the course of the year is just not good enough.
When Costas Karamanlis was elected president of New Democracy, he traveled all across Greece to meet his public and officials. Even though he was an excellent orator in Parliament, he did not rest on his laurels. So whoever is elected to lead the party next should know that a few impressive duels in Parliament are not enough to give the center-right the push and the energy it needs to experience a revival.