The weekend conference of the Democratic Alignment naturally inspired hopes and expectations among Greek voters who like to associate themselves with the center of the political spectrum.
This reaction was, firstly, because the coming-together of different politicians who share a similar political background appeared to suggest that there is a certain will for unity. Secondly, it was because they are optimistic about the prospects of the political center and they do not want to see it being hijacked either by SYRIZA, the left-wing ruling party of Alexis Tsipras, or by the conservative opposition New Democracy party. Thirdly, it’s because they deem that this rather broad political space contains (or it could produce, so to speak) personalities with the capacity to enrich Greece’s political class, which has been tarnished by years of financial crisis.
It is as yet too early to say how far the Democratic Alignment project will go. If the past is any guide, the venture will find itself exposed to risk from private ambitions, from erroneous decisions and from outside power games.
Moreover, no one can predict how voters will react in a political environment of deep polarization (conditions which will certainly prevail in the next general election, whenever that takes place). A great deal will depend on whether the different factions that make up the alliance will manage to come up with a leader who knows how to appeal to the masses.
There is no question that the presence of a strong centrist party (at least when speaking about European politics) is not just necessary, but also politically beneficial. Greece is not an exception. Quite the opposite in fact: It is a troubled country with a long list of particularities, where extremist parties have shown that they can penetrate the domestic electorate on the back of empty promises, false beliefs and a good dose of tough-guy posturing.
Centrist and center-left parties are usually good at absorbing shocks and preserving social peace. They also tend to cooperate when it is necessary to make sure that the country remains anchored to Europe.
In light of the above, it is in the interest of the country that the Democratic Alignment project comes to fruition. Most likely its success will depend on whether the main players are able to stay together and at the same time find a way to connect with the masses.