New Democracy has little to fear

Last Sunday Dora Bakoyannis, a former senior cadre of the conservative New Democracy party, announced the establishment of her own political party. Since the creation of the National Radical Union (ERE) in 1955 by Constantine Karamanlis, Greece’s right-of-center has had no shortage of divisions, ousters and defections. Bakoyannis must feel confident and optimistic about this undertaking – or she wouldn’t bother creating a new party that does not really aspire to rule the country but is rather built around the expectation of attracting voters through a mix of liberal ideas, a rather odd proposal to make at the moment. For its part, the New Democracy folk have no reason to be nervous. Bakoyannis’s Democratic Alliance poses no threat to the conservatives and their current leader, Antonis Samaras, whose main challenge is luring traditional right-wing supporters back to the party. One could even argue that the emergence of Democratic Alliance could consolidate the status of Samaras among right-wing voters in the way that the departure of Costis Stephanopoulos and his creation of the Democratic Renewal (DIANA) party in 1985 bolstered the presence of Constantine Mitsotakis within New Democracy. Furthermore, the most credible centrists and liberals out there are already members of New Democracy – and Samaras should be expected to cooperate more closely with them in the future than he has done up to now. There is talk of a disillusioned middle-class elite that has been let down by Samaras’s bashing of the memorandum. But the new bourgeoisie does not identify with any particular party. It was created during the first PASOK governments, it grew strong during the rule of Costas Simitis and basically aims to shape the key policies of the two mainstream parties – but they would not really want to limit their influence by falling behind some second-tier party. Bakoyannis had the courage, or imprudence, to set up her own political party – and she is the first bourgeois politician to do so. Her ambition is to unsettle a political system of which she has been an integral part until now. But she may end up creating problems for no one but herself. It has happened to others before her.