In periods of crisis and political depression there is a tendency to sugarcoat the facts, a necessary step to start dealing with the problems at hand and achieve the only real political goal: power. In the case of New Democracy, there is not much that can be said after the first round of elections for a new chief of the conservative party.
Turnout during the first round on Sunday was deemed impressive, even though the reported number of voters came to just half that of those who cast their ballot for the election of a New Democracy leader on November 29, 2009. Low turnout fears had been expressed mainly by party officials and lawmakers who, aware of the rifts within the party, had predicted only lackluster interest from the public. So the relatively high turnout was perhaps the only positive thing to come out of the first round and that was exclusively due to the sense of duty of the citizens who support the conservative party.
One of the main characteristics of the contest was the strife that broke out in the party’s mainstream wing. Evangelos Meimarakis, with 40 percent of the vote, and Regional Governor of Central Macedonia Apostolos Tzitzikostas, with just over 20 percent, ignored the other two contenders. New Democracy’s traditional mechanism fought Tzitzikostas passionately, despite the fact that he came first in Macedonia, which, along with the Peloponnese, is a bastion of the right. Oddly, the two contenders who made it into the second round both come from Crete, which hasn’t shown a majority for a right-wing candidate in about a century.
So Kyriakos Mitsotakis is in second place behind Meimarakis. His performance is well-deserved. The voice of the party’s liberal wing garnered 28.5 percent of the vote, just 11 percentage points less than that gained by his sister, Dora Bakoyannis, in the elections of 2009, and he did so without the support of “friends” or “sympathizers.”
As far as the fourth candidate is concerned, Adonis Georgiadis lost with 11 percent of the vote, though it is a well-known fact that the Greek right has a tendency to be attracted to colorful types. For the record, Panayiotis Psomiadis, another colorful populist, got just over 10 percent in 2009.
What we can take from all this is that we can soon say goodbye to the idea of a New Democracy that expresses the center-right. This will be gone if Meimarakis appoints Mitsotakis vice president, and if the latter forms a front with Georgiadis. Politics, after all, is not a cocktail that only requires a skilled barman to the get the mix right. In short, it is not enough to treat an injured party without first diagnosing the disease.