It used to be possible to predict the outcome of an election with some certainty. The key lay in guessing which way the middle-ground voters would swing; those who had voted for PASOK’s Costas Simitis and then New Democracy’s Costas Karamanlis, those who had voted for Karamanlis and then George Papandreou, and thought of themselves as “homeless” centrists. They were – and still are – a tough crowd, but also very mature.
The crisis and bailouts turned everything on its head. ND’s initial anti-memorandum stance alienated them and PASOK seemed too vague. To Potami brought some relief because it held the promise of becoming the first truly centrist party made up of serious people with no connections to the old party mechanisms.
In the second set of elections in 2012, middle-ground voters were spooked by the specter of Grexit and the likelihood of an immature SYRIZA coming to power, and voted for ND. Then came the ENFIA unified property tax, which brought many of these voters to their knees. But as prime minister, Antonis Samaras hesitated over going beyond the confines of the party, made a fatal reshuffle and lost their support. Many didn’t even bother to vote in 2015 and many more voted for SYRIZA in the hope of change.
Today, these voters are torn. They want nothing more to do with SYRIZA. Some are pleased with the Prespes name deal or certain social policy decisions, but they cannot abide the mentality reflected in the Novartis affair, for example, or the authoritarian manner of many of SYRIZA’s top officials. Nor do they have the patience to wait for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to get rid of some of the dead weight he’s been carrying since he was polling at 3 percent.
To Potami ran dry and Movement for Change (KINAL) is starting to look like a gathering place for PASOK old-timers. This may act as a draw to some who had drifted over to SYRIZA and are always attracted to power, but no thinking center-left voter can come up with a compelling reason to vote for KINAL anymore. Some are still trying.
Their problem with New Democracy is not its leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, but a large part of the party. There are faces and dynamics in the center-right camp that are pushing them toward abstention or an invalid ballot. They will be torn until the very last minute.
If I had to make a bet, I would say that they will ultimately vote for ND, albeit with a heavy heart, because they want this government to go. Then they will pay close attention to how Mitsotakis governs and how Tsipras behaves in the opposition and whether he creates something more vibrant and convincing in the center-left. As we said, these voters are a tough crowd, but that’s also why they’re so valuable.