Sunday February 1, 2015 Search
Weather | Athens
16o C
13o C
News
Business
Comment
Life
Sports
Community
Survival Guide
Greek Edition
Samaras: too small for his boots?

By Harry van Versendaal

“A foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds,” R.W. Emerson said, but -- as Antonis Samaras has found out -- too much inconsistency can be politically damaging.

In 2009, the 61-year-old conservative politician took over a broken New Democracy party promising to rebuild it around the idea of “social liberalism.” It was an exclusive concept that moved the party further to the right on Greece’s political spectrum by embracing such values as national pride, Orthodoxy and skepticism of the markets. Awkwardly echoing Bismarck, the Greek politician claimed he could hear the distant hoofbeats of history.

A few months later, ND came out against the bailout deal that George Papandreou’s Socialist government signed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Samaras went on to oust Dora Bakoyannis, the centrist former foreign minister who had earlier challenged him in the party leadership race, for backing the aid package in Parliament. Bakoyannis, in turn, formed her own pro-bailout splinter party, taking some of her ND colleagues with her. Strangely, Samaras had done the same in the early 1990s, as he left ND to form his own party, Political Spring, bringing down the government of Constantine Mitsotakis, Bakoyannis’s father, in the process.

As a result of his tactics, Samaras drove away the party’s middle-ground supporters who had been key in handing his predecessor, Costas Karamanlis, victory in two parliamentary elections.

His opposition to the memorandum was short-lived. Faced with bankruptcy, Greece earlier this year had to sign a second bailout deal worth 130 billion euros to keep the country afloat until 2014. In his most controversial U-turn, Samaras asked his MPs to support the aid package. The decision prompted a great deal of controversy in the right-wing anti-bailout camp inside and outside the party as epithets ranged from “flip-flopper” to “traitor.” Some 20 deputies refused to back the deal in the House and were as a result expelled from the party. One of the rebels, Panos Kammenos, went on to form the populist anti-bailout party Independent Greeks, sucking a great deal of support from ND on the right. After turning his back on the political center, Samaras had now disaffected a large portion of the right.

ND’s role in the power-sharing government that followed Papandreou’s clumsy exit from the driver’s seat only gave voice to Samaras’s critics. Although pledging to support the implementation of the bailout deal, he undermined it at every step of the way while constantly bleating for a snap election.

On May 6, Samaras finally got what he wished for. But, in yet another instance of political miscalculation, the outcome of the ballot was a far cry from what he had hoped for. His party came first in the vote, but the result was a Pyrrhic victory as Samaras had spent a good part of the campaign calling for a clear conservative majority. The numbers were painful. Samaras had inherited the worst support in the history of ND -- Karamanlis’s 33.5 percent in 2009 -- and managed to drive it even lower, scoring an embarrassing 18.8 percent. The party lost more than a million voters in less than three years, during which it was not even in government.

Like a pupil resitting exams again and again, the poor marks have prompted Samaras to rebrand his politics. Now he wants to build a “grand center-right front.” The results of his overture have been mixed. Most of the smaller liberal parties, including the pro-reform Drasi, turned down the offer. Ironically, it was his bitter political rival Bakoyannis that was this week duly welcomed back into the fold as the two announced they were joining forces in a “patriotic, pro-European front.” And as his acceptance of defectors from the disintegrating nationalist LAOS party into ND demonstrate, there is hardly any ideological or quality filter to Samaras’s attempts to broaden his party’s appeal.

As conservative ideologues would be the first to admit, the political horse-trading of the past few days smacks of unscrupulous opportunism. As it happens, cliches have their place. A true leader must be proactive, he must shape events and not just be blown about in different directions by them. But if the ability to inspire a unifying national vision is a safe measure of a politician’s greatness, then Samaras has proved to be a political pygmy.

ND may well recover by June 17. But Samaras will only have SYRIZA to thank as the leftist party’s fuzzy economics and pie-in-the-sky rhetoric is making many people afraid that Alexis Tsipras’s vision of a bailout-free utopia will lead the country out of the eurozone.

Unlike his new archrival, however, the ND boss lacks an ideal -- and that may prove to be his undoing. Samaras may have changed his political tune one too many times for Greek voters to give him the mandate he so desires.

[Kathimerini English Edition]

ekathimerini.com , Thursday May 24, 2012 (19:38)  
Greece shakes Europe´s political kaleidoscope: expect the unexpected
Unyielding truth
This is not a game
SYRIZA must come up with ‘pragmatic solutions,’ Schulz tells Kathimerini
Europe waits for proposals from Athens
European officials believe that there is scope for an agreement with the new Greek government but that Athens will have to accept a compromise on its demands. Officials in Brussels told Kath...
Notes provide more clues on prison breakout scheme
Police have found handwritten notes exchanged between 22-year-old Angeliki Spyropoulou and jailed members of the Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire at a safe house in Loutraki, west of Athens, ...
Inside News
Dijsselbloem says Greece has to decide how to move ahead
The chairman of euro-area finance ministers group, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said it’s up to the Greek government to decide how to move forward in resolving its economic and financial problems. D...
ECB’s Constancio signals Greek waiver may end if program dropped
Vitor Constancio signaled that the European Central Bank stands ready to end its acceptance of Greece’s junk-rated debt for bank funding if the government drops out of an aid program. If a n...
Inside Business
BASKETBALL
Panathinaikos preserves perfect home record
After yet another great performance at home, Panathinaikos defeated Galatasaray 86-77 in Athens on Friday to get to three wins in five games at the Euroleague top-16. The Greek champion shoo...
SOCCER
Gattuso: Unpaid OFI players couldn´t buy food
Former coach Gennaro Gattuso has lifted the lid on the plight of crisis-club OFI Crete which has been banned from playing in the Super League until it clears mounting debts with its staff. T...
Inside Sports
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
 RECENT NEWS
1. Dijsselbloem says Greece has to decide how to move ahead
2. Europe waits for proposals from Athens
3. Notes provide more clues on prison breakout scheme
4. Drug prices are falling but volume sold remains high
5. Tsipras plays down chance of rift
6. Ex-revenues chief Theoharis claimes political interference
more news
Today
This Week
1. Dijsselbloem says Greece has to decide how to move ahead
2. Greece shakes Europe's political kaleidoscope: expect the unexpected
3. US to work closely with Greece and EU to resolve differences, says White House
4. Merkel rejects debt writedown for Greece
5. Greek bank debt plummets as investors head for the exit
6. Greek markets plunge as SYRIZA digs in on challenge to austerity
Today
This Week
1. Greek Elections 2015 | LIVE
2. SYRIZA heads for historic victory but without majority
3. SYRIZA's win will test institutions
4. EU must accept that Greek debt relief is inevitable
5. Greek Elections 2015: The day after | LIVE
6. Athens may veto further EU sanctions against Russia
   Find us ...
  ... on
Twitter
     ... on Facebook   
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright © 2015, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.