Most voters rejected radical extremes. Can the country now begin to come together?by Zoe Alipranti / July 8, 2019 / Leave a comment
Four years after a divisive referendum which put Greece on the brink of leaving the eurozone, its citizens have delivered a strong message, by ushering centre-right New Democracy (ND) into power with 40 per cent of the vote. After the crisis that decimated the economy and sowed deep divisions in Greek society, a new political cycle seems to be kicking in. Indeed, this is the first time since 2009 that a party has been elected with a clear majority in parliament, suggesting a return to political stability that is a deviation from the fragmentation defining European politics at the moment.
ND has recovered to its pre-crisis levels and this victory is largely personally attributable to its leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Despite hailing from a political dynasty in Greece, Mitsotakis was an underdog in the 2016 ND leadership race, underestimated both within his party and by his political opponents. Positioning himself on a more liberal, pro-business wing in a party that is still slowly modernising, he reached out to the centre by adopting a moderate tone. The theme of unity played a central role in his campaign, along with a focus on reinvigorating the economy and making Greece an attractive country after a sustained period of brain drain.
The left-wing incumbent government Syriza punched above its weight, achieving 31 per cent—8 per cent more than in May’s European elections, showing that it still has a solid electoral base. Leader Alexis Tsipras abandoned his confrontational leftist agenda on the EU in 2015, but domestically Syriza remains far from a social democratic force. Ridding the party of its remaining radical elements might prove critical to its recovery in the coming years. Can the party now adapt to a new era, one in which similar forces such as Spain’s Podemos and Germany’s Die Linke are not faring well?
A big question mark remains over whether Syriza will revert to its pre-2015 technique of sowing division or if it will embark firmly on a less populist path. It seems likely the party will try to evolve into a centre-left social democratic force, a route it has already chosen in the international arena.
This comes as the traditional centre-left party KINAL failed to perform, with the departure of heavyweight member Evaggelos Venizelos meaning that centrist voters…