Challenging days for ND

New Democracy’s congress is to get under way tomorrow and the conservative party hopes that these three days of deliberation will allow it to break the cycle of introversion into which it was thrust with its defeat in last October’s parliamentary elections. There is no doubt that party leader Antonis Samaras will prevail at the conference, as is usually the case under such circumstances, and even more so since the new ND chief was elected directly and with a significant majority by the party’s supporters. It is also likely that an as yet unknown number of party members who disagree with Samaras’s line of policy will announce their departure from ND. This is made even more likely by the recent exit of Dora Bakoyannis from the party as well as by her obvious intention to begin laying the groundwork for the establishment of a new political party with more liberal tendencies. Whatever results the congress brings, they will be an improvement on the introverted climate that prevails in the conservative camp right now, on the rumors that have been flying about its fate and ultimately on the lack of clarity that it has displayed over the past few months and which has been used as an alibi by some to justify ND’s hesitation in dealing with the challenges thrown its way by the governing PASOK party. It is usual for all party congresses to focus on drawing up a political and ideological framework that will determine the party’s next moves and positions. Taking this as a given, it is certain that Samaras’s keynote address will outline clearly and completely his intentions for the party. The real issue, however, is the manner in which the party’s principles and ideals will translate into day-to-day policy, especially given that PASOK has intensified its assaults against ND in an effort to draw attention away from its own internal divisions and to counterbalance the negative impact of its austerity measures on public support. Samaras took over the reins of New Democracy at an extremely crucial period for the country and for the conservative camp, and the greatest challenge he faces, one that entails as much risk as it does hope, is bringing the party’s interests into line with those of the country.