Political reverberations

Never since the fall of the military dictatorship has Greece been so pessimistic on the eve of a new year. Everything has been decided in line with the requirements of the bailout loan signed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Any changes to the so-called memorandum are designed to further tighten the belt around workers. There is no hope left for pleasant surprises. Living standards are in free fall. There’s nothing new on the political horizon. There was little in the form of fresh ideas – and that did not come from fresh figures. The local elections saw the emergence of two new politicians in Athens and Thessaloniki. The politics of Giorgos Kaminis and Yiannis Boutaris are rather unconventional. Both managed to lure voters from across the political spectrum, but mostly leaning to the left. Both appear to represent the middle class. But only time will show if they can leave a mark on people’s daily lives. Both candidacies were put forward by the Democratic Left, a splinter group from left-wing SYRIZA. They were backed by ruling PASOK, although the Socialists were not too keen about their candidacies. So if there was one politician who can claim to be a harbinger of new ideas, that would be Spyros Kouvelis of the Democratic Left. Meanwhile, the ejection of Dora Bakoyannis from conservative New Democracy prompted her to establish her own liberal grouping. We’ll have to wait and see what society thinks of her venture. Finally, there was the expulsion of four deputies from the PASOK. The crisis has (mildly) rocked the political system – with the exception, as always, of the Communist party. However, despite the wide discrediting of the two mainstream parties, the two-party system still stands unchallenged. Premier George Papandreou and his reformists failed to live up to their promises and undermined the country’s ability to obtain credit. They went on to sign the memorandum without any serious bargaining. Their performance has been a synonym for political suicide – a welcome fact for parties right and left. With PASOK in a state of civil war, the only hope can come from ND – which is by definition the only serious political alternative. Its leader, Antonis Samaras, has managed to rally the bulk of the party’s fighting forces following its humiliating defeat in October 2009. But the conservatives still have to shed their inferiority complex imposed on them by their rivals. Any novelty will have to come from the right; not in the form of public relations stunts, an area where ND has anyway proved to be a total mess, but from a different idea of life and politics.

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