Democracy by inheritance

One would have needed a really warped outlook in the 1960s to imagine that in 2006 the nephew of Constantine Karamanlis would be prime minister, George Papandreou’s grandson the opposition leader, while the daughter of Constantine Mitsotakis would hold the Foreign Affairs portfolio. Despite the pervasive effect of television democracy, the primordial prestige of political dynasties remains strong, eating away at the foundations of our representative democracy. After New Democracy’s 1996 defeat, the conservative barons picked Costas Karamanlis as a solution to the party’s leadership crisis. Notwithstanding his credentials as an MP, he would never have climbed to the top were it not for his family name. PASOK took a page from the same book. When Costas Simitis gave George Papandreou the helm of his troubled party, Socialist cadres let out a sigh of relief. The new leader managed to rally many diverse forces, even if the disparate tendencies projected their incompatible fantasies onto him. In his testimony, Andreas Papandreou said his name was his only legacy to his children – not without good reason. The way in which Dora Bakoyannis elbowed her way into the Foreign Ministry ensured her a place in the same club. The Mitsotakis name may lack in weight but the family is far better organized. The election of Kyriakos Mitsotakis as top vote-getter in the second Athens constituency showed that the family has a strong and independent dynamism that extends beyond party boundaries. Sure, political manners have not been her strong suit. In an overview of her job as Athens mayor, Bakoyannis indulged in immoderate self-congratulation and a show of force ahead of the reshuffle. If that was provocative, the mobilization of cheerleaders outside the ministry during the handover ceremony was an act of political kitsch.

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