Monday Jul 28, 2014 Search
Weather | Athens
31o C
23o 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)  
Weighing all the factors
Clear rules, for everyone
Concrete measures
Education needs skills
Samaras vows to stand by Cyprus in reunification talks
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has vowed to stand by the Cypriot government in its reunification talks with Turkish-Cypriots after meeting President Nicos Anastasiades in Athens on Monday. “...
Tree collapses in village square, killing nine-year-old boy
A nine-year-old boy has been killed in a village in central Greece after a plane tree collapsed on top of him. The accident happened on Sunday night in the central square of a village called...
Inside News
Greek privatization fund to get new management, says Finance Ministry
Greeces state privatisation fund is to be overhauled for the fifth time in two years, the finance ministry said on Monday, as it announced plans to seek new management. The ministry said the...
Greece wants ECB stress tests to factor in banks´ restructuring plans, source says
Greece wants the European Central Bank's health checks on its four biggest banks later this year to take account of their new restructuring plans rather than being based on last year's balan...
Inside Business
VOLLEYBALL
Volleyball national team second in European League
Much as the national volleyball team tried to repeat in the finals of the European League the feat it had achieved in the semifinals, it failed to overturn the advantage Montenegro had got f...
SOCCER
Ranieri says he has little to change in Greek national team
The Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) presented Claudio Ranieri as the new Greece coach for the next couple of years, after the Italian manager signed his contract in Athens on Friday. “I l...
Inside Sports
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
 RECENT NEWS
1. Greek privatization fund to get new management, says Finance Ministry
2. Greece wants ECB stress tests to factor in banks´ restructuring plans, source says
3. Musical chairs at ECB leaves Germany on guard for doves’ attack
4. Samaras vows to stand by Cyprus in reunification talks
5. Minister mulls fixing food and drink prices at non-private beaches
6. Multi-bill containing prior actions ready for Parliament
more news
Today
This Week
1. Defense Minister Avramopoulos to represent Greece at European Commission
2. Euro inflation seen testing ECB patience as stimulus takes time
3. Tree collapses in village square, killing nine-year-old boy
4. Maziotis moved to Diavata Prison in Thessaloniki
5. Multi-bill containing prior actions ready for Parliament
6. Minister mulls fixing food and drink prices at non-private beaches
Today
This Week
1. Climber dies in Mount Olympus fall
2. Greek sovereign debt at 174.1 percent of GDP in first quarter
3. Unequal after death
4. Hedge fund Dromeus turns Greek tragedy to triumph with 160 pct gain
5. Quadriplegic woman on life support 'dies due to unpaid power bills'
6. Front-line threats
   Find us ...
  ... on
Twitter
     ... on Facebook   
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright © 2014, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.