Given some of the outstanding people it boasted among its ranks, both experienced politicians and outsiders who had already succeeded in other fields, the Potami party could have evolved into a robust and influential player on the local political stage. Even with a small presence in Parliament, it could have served as a prop for the viability of a government and, more importantly, as a much-needed voice of moderation.
To Potami could have been the clear voice of the political center – not the center-left or the center-right – a champion of a liberal economy with an emphasis on social justice, tolerance and speaking the hard truth (as unpleasant as this may sometimes sound), and a voice of consensus in favor of keeping Greece on its pro-European path.
Given the existing balance of power, it could have served as the voice of common sense, unburdened by the past and with an eye on the future.
Under the present electoral system, even if it only just managed to squeeze into Parliament, electing eight MPs, To Potami would still prove extremely useful in maintaining the country’s stability, especially if neither of the two big parties managed to form a majority government.
For its part, Movement for Change has lost the strength it seemed to have when it brought together different political forces from the left and center-left and the support of the 210,000 people who voted in the party’s internal elections 14 months ago. A number of wrong moves have taken a toll. The movement has already lost Democratic Left and alienated several lawmakers, and will soon find itself made up of no one but the old guard of PASOK, with everything that entails.
The fact that To Potami is effectively in meltdown is not good news for the Greek political system. This is not only because it strove to bring – and to some degree succeeded in bringing – a new, civilized and, dare I say, polite quality to Greek politics that is sadly lacking, but also because if the supporters of incumbent SYRIZA and opposition New Democracy were to see their party lose, they would prefer to see the winner forced into a coalition government with To Potami.
In both practical terms, but also for symbolic reasons, a coalition government could achieve a lot more if it had To Potami on board. In the most likely scenario that it joined forces with New Democracy, it would give reform-oriented conservative chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis much needed support in dealing with the demands of his populist old guard.
To Potami appears to have come to an end, and it hasn’t been a pretty sight. It’s a shame that the party which attracted personalities like Nikoforos Diamandouros and Nikos Alivizatos has sunk as low as it has in recent weeks, with ludicrous claims, attacks and public infighting. It’s not just a shame for the people involved (that’s their business after all) – it’s a pity for the country.