Karamanlis feels the heat

Sometimes it’s good to call a spade a spade. If New Democracy won the 2004 elections, it was thanks to two people: firstly, the current prime minister Costas Karamanlis and, secondly, his spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos. Karamanlis tailored the electoral contest to his needs and shifted the political discourse to the center of the left-right spectrum. His main concern during the campaign period was the blunders of conservative officials. One deputy implied that there would be «jobs for the boys,» New Democracy cadres displayed alarming arrogance and other deputies starred in embarrassing television appearances. The point is that Karamanlis soon realized he had inherited the mantle of a rusty political party. After years in opposition, the fabric of the center-right had begun to fray. The ruling PASOK party was naturally a stronger magnet for career-seeking individuals. At the time, you could almost smell the mold as you climbed that creaky staircase at ND headquarters on Rigillis St. Karamanlis took over the helm of the party and achieved the 2004 victory after painstaking efforts. But there was one problem. ND had found a leader but there was no party mechanism. Karamanlis had renovated the shop, but it really needed rebuilding from scratch. These days I can imagine Karamanlis leaning on his desk, pondering the antics of various conservative officials. All that in-party bickering, the endless buck passing and embarrassing TV appearances of ND officials must be driving him crazy. It took former Socialist premier Costas Simitis seven years to stand where Karamanlis now stands. Greece now stands where it stood in 2004. Karamanlis sits alone at his Rafina home. He knows that, as in ancient tragedy, catharsis can be achieved in only one way: by blood and sacrifice. The protagonist feels the pressure, the injustice, but there is no other way.

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