Samaras in cloud of obscurity

Conservative party leader Antonis Samaras ousted Dora Bakoyannis after she voted for the IMF-inspired austerity measures introduced by the Socialist government of George Papandreou. Samaras then went a step further by announcing the formation of a committee to evaluate the performance of conservative deputies. The committee will also decide which deputies – including former Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis – will run in the next elections. If Samaras believed that the presence of Karamanlis and other New Democracy officials was counterproductive, he could simply expel them from the party without providing any further explanation. This is precisely what Papandreou did when he omitted Costas Simitis, a former premier, from the PASOK ticket. However, instead of taking the decisions himself, Samaras proceeded to set up a body of «jurors» to take them for him. This practice, some critics have said, shows a lack of political courage. However, lack of political courage is not unusual in life and politics. In fact, it’s often rewarded. Samaras’s political blunder is that he has failed to realize that ejecting politicians from the party does not constitute renewal. Samaras was elected ND leader on the promise of injecting fresh ideas into the party but his political discourse is odd and, at times, obscure. The rejection of the stabilization program by the Greek Communist Party (KKE) has some political logic – regardless of whether one agrees with KKE or not. But when New Democracy votes against the package on the grounds that this will stop people from shifting to the KKE, it is not politics but simply machination. Some have expressed concerns that the policy followed by Samaras could weaken ND or even divide the party. But even a split would not be that terrible if it occurred for ideological reasons as opposed to tactics. Samaras has spent many years on the political fringe. He was rescued thanks to a conducive but limited environment. But he must know that it will be impossible to keep a diverse party like New Democracy inside his hermitage.

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