Conservative dilemma

The week up to the second round of the municipal and regional elections was dominated by analyses of the supposed emergence of a far-right movement, which was used by all sorts of so-called reformist figures in their attempt to launch a severe attack on the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Christodoulos and on the fundamental principles that permeate the lives of the Greek conservative electorate. Conservative citizens who voted against New Democracy’s candidate for the Athens-Piraeus «super-prefecture» wanted to send a strong message of disapproval to the conservative administration for nominating Yiannis Tzannetakos, a «reformist» politician from the broader left who had vehemently attacked Christodoulos for his reaction during the identity card controversy. This was done despite the fact that New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis had rightly signed the Church’s petition asking for a referendum on the issue. The reaction by conservative voters was expected and, to some extent, legitimate. However, by no means do these voters intend to become instruments of Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s policies nor of those who ridicule and lash out against them, accusing them of being reactionaries and far-rightists due to their belief that Greece should participate in the European Union without giving up its national characteristics as the other EU members have done. The question the disaffected conservative voters must answer is whether they believe that the conservative party can safeguard their values and principles or whether they can really place their hopes with ultra-nationalist politician Giorgios Karadzaferis. The real issue, in other words, is not whether Tzannetakos – a figure who has no conservative background – could be elected or not. Nor is it whether New Democracy will win the next parliamentary elections. The real issue is whether Greece will see a political party emerge which, making the requisite adaptations, can enrich an integrated Europe while also preserving its national characteristics – as all serious European states have done – or whether the citizens of this country will gradually become the «labor force» or «faceless consumers» of a single European market. The above dilemma concerns not only the voters but the entire conservative party, including some cadres who think that because New Democracy does not enjoy an absolute majority by default – in fact, no party in Europe does – it will have to make an overture to the left by recruiting leftist figures. No figure of the broader left would be willing to abandon their party and if they did, they would bring little to the conservative party but a few family votes. Nor is it sure that were they to make a career with the conservative party, they’d inject a more liberal trend. Evangelos Averoff, who came from the liberal party, became the vehicle for the most conservative views inside New Democracy – and he is not the only example.