The Greek Prime Minister has moved his party and his politics to the centreby David Patrikarakos / October 9, 2015 / Leave a comment
Since the start of 2015, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has won two general elections, a national referendum and signed a new bailout deal packed with austerity. In so doing, he has managed to jettison the extreme left of his party and with it his own hard left politics. He has gone from being the eurozone’s bogeyman to Angela Merkel’s darling; from being a continental nuisance to a (slightly reluctant) partner. Much of it was forced upon him. He took on the eurozone. He lost. Still, not bad for just under a year’s work.
A new Tsipras does seem to have emerged. The Economist recently reported that Tsipras had spent the summer at a shipping magnate’s villa and enrolled his son in one of Greece’s most exclusive private schools. As a result some in the blogosphere have suggested that he is coming to resemble a Greek Tony Blair.
But there is more than enjoying the hospitality of oligarchs to the Blair analogy. After all, Blair dragged the Labour Party, a former socialist movement, to the political centre, abolishing some of its more controversial polices, notably Clause 4, which, in calling for “the common ownership of the means of production” hampered the party’s appeal to middle class voters. Like Blair once did, Tsipras has managed, in the space of just over nine months no less, to move Syriza closer to the political centre.
Tsipras is a lifelong political activist. He started in student politics and worked his way steadily onto the national scene. He was always on the far left. He was always strident. But he had another marked quality, too. A family friend, a former academic at the National Technical University of Athens, dealt with Tsipras when the latter was the student representative on the university senate. Tsipras, he said, unyieldingly supported student causes, but never did anything to directly harm the university’s interests. The same characteristic was shown in his eventual decision to yield to Greece’s lenders. The alternative option, Grexit, was just too damaging a prospect for the country. He moved further to the centre. He backed down.
As Dimitrios Triantaphyllou, a Greek political analyst at Kadir Has University who has followed the rise of Tsipras, notes, “the Blair analogy is very apropos…