There’s more to be read into the contentious TV advertisement released by SYRIZA last week than even the creators themselves would probably like – and especially if you take away the crass humor and cheap shots against the media world, which rallied together against the ad.
Gambling on a revival of the divisive tone of the 2012-15 period, the main opposition party’s ad seeks to reinvigorate the reflexes of the anti-memorandum audience that brought it to power. The problem with this approach is that this is not 2012 and there’s no memorandum. More importantly, we have had the experience of four-and-a-half years of a SYRIZA-led government, which no one can say was the best (or most blameless) in terms of its relations with the media. Its drive to take a political hold of the country’s public broadcasters is still too recent for the opposition to now appear as a champion of “normalcy” in the media.
And this is how SYRIZA’s problem becomes a problem for the country’s entire political system: If light does indeed need to be cast on how the government spent the budget for its coronavirus public health campaign, the questions being raised by Alexis Tsipras and his fellow leftists are being lost in the din of squabbling between the two main parties.
The issue has also served to highlight the absence of a political force that has not wasted its political capital so recklessly and has at least a modicum of credibility. With Movement for Change (KINAL) facing similar shortcomings to SYRIZA, Kyriakos Mitsotakis has emerged as the dominant force of the center, and while this may be great news for New Democracy, it is not great for the country.
If political developments had taken a different course and a party like centrist To Potami (The River) still had a presence in Parliament and in the public debate, the government’s oversights would not simply disappear in the void between ND and SYRIZA. Many centrist voters are aware of the ruling party’s shortcomings but they certainly are not waiting for SYRIZA to save them.
The advertisement, therefore, speaks to SYRIZA’s staunchest supporters and nobody else, for the simple reason that no one else wants to hear it play the same old song again. This absence of a reliable voice to the left of New Democracy, in turn, plays into the hands of Mitsotakis. These gains, however, are only short-term, because in the long term he stands to lose from the imbalance.