The question of a third political pole

We are hearing a lot of talk about the need for a third pole in politics, for a party that will stand on an equal footing with the center-right New Democracy (ND) and socialist PASOK. Of course this is not the first time we have heard this argument – in fact, we hear it every time the two main parties are in trouble. The media have frequently seen the «need» for a third big party. And some deputies saw the people’s patience running out with the two big parties and formed a party of their own, only to shut up shop after a few months. It is only natural for such an initiative to fail because they started off on the wrong foot. Parties are not formed in order to create a trend nor to rejuvenate the political landscape. Parties do not come into being to salvage the political scene or because we are tired of the names Karamanlis and Papandreou. Parties must express current social trends and the more their political oratory reflects the needs of society the better they do at the polls. Even Stefanos Manos’s Liberals, who had a distinct political proposal, did not fare well at the polls because they failed to find fertile ground among socialist-inclined voters. The first question regarding whether there is a need for a third major party is: Which sectors of society are not being represented by the existing parties and need a new party to represent them? What is strange is that all these people who feel a third pole is the solution cannot really say on which side of the political spectrum it ought to be. To the right of ND or to the left of PASOK? Meanwhile the issue is further complicated because both ND and PASOK stand accused of taking strikingly similar stances on crucial issues. Most people envision the third pole as an apolitical formation supporting renewal and possibly virtue in politics. But these are merely tools of politics. Renewal and virtue are all well and good, but they do not translate into concrete proposals. Of course, none of this means that the two-party system does not have its fair share of problems. Both main parties were supported and nurtured by the all-powerful state or the hope that they might gain control of it. To this day the disparate alliances within PASOK and ND are sustained by the hope of governance, which brings everything from financial rewards to being able to make appointments. The more that faith in a state that finances, appoints and looks after its own is confuted, the more the political cycle will accelerate and the two main parties will increasingly lose votes to the smaller populist parties. The problem for people looking toward a «third pole» is that for the time being the populist parties are doing rather well and this means that there is little room left for other aspiring leaders. At least for the time being.