Politics and ideology

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s prime task when he came to power was to place his conservative government in the service of the people – hence his calls for «modesty and humility» on the behalf of his ministers. Karamanlis’s ministers, however, seem to be largely out of touch, and few are polite to the grassroots supporters of the conservative New Democracy party. Rather, most government officials appear to be trying to distance themselves from the party base, a section of the population that had been sidelined for decades as a result of their political allegiances. Instead of modesty and humility, the government conveys an air of arrogance while no political change has been felt at the practical level. Unlike PASOK’s ascent to power in 1981, New Democracy has not displayed the requisite coherence, fighting spirit or ideological rigor that would make its presence felt in the political arena. This weakness was to be expected, as the conservative party was set up under Evangelos Averoff in opposition to PASOK and did not possess a strong ideological character of its own. As a leader of New Democracy, former conservative Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis tried to enhance the liberal platform of the party. Mitsotakis’s wager, however, failed much because liberal doctrines and conservative values can only coexist for reasons of political expediency – as during the communist threat or when the need arose to drive Andreas Papandreou from power. As a result, New Democracy seems to have been reduced to an executive role – a situation that provokes little enthusiasm among the public. Even former Socialist Prime Minister Costas Simitis – the manager par excellence – saw a need to give some ideological color to Greece’s membership of the eurozone. The executive part of governing is significant, but without a coherent ideological premise any benefits become short-lived. People also seek to escape gray reality. PASOK rose to power amid an upbeat political climate – and with promising prospects, as Greece had just joined the European Union – simply because Andreas Papandreou proposed «change» – a slogan that proved powerful enough to inspire the Greek people. New Democracy’s rise to power has failed to bring about an ideological shift of the same magnitude. The ideological vacuum must soon be filled, for that is the only way to energize society, which needs to wean itself from the ideological hegemony of the left and the practices of Simitis’s eight-year rule.