Yesterday is a day to be marked on the modern Greek political calendar.
It may be a very important day.
Almost 400,000 members voted Mr. Kyriakos Mitsotakis as the new leader of the “New Democracy” party of Greece. Mr. Mitsotakis crafted a clear political agenda for this election and campaigned hard on the basis of this agenda. His opponent, Mr. Meimarakis merely advertised the fact that he was the favorite of ex prime minister Mr. Karamanlis and the powerful political machine he operates in the party.
This vote is a radical departure from the line of ex prime minister Mr. Kostas Karamanlis, who was promoting and supporting Mr., Vaggelis Meimarakis, a veteran of the party and follower of Mr. Karamanlis.
New Democracy under the stranglehold of Mr. Karamanlis and his followers has become an aged party, out of sync with society, as the two national elections of 2015 have shown.
Syriza, the governing party, is truly a transfiguration of PASOK, the party that rules Greece for most of the period following the military dictatorship of 1967 – 1974.
Under the pink cover and the empty words of populism, Mr. Tsipras is a cheap replica of Andreas Papandreou.
The coming of Syriza to power is not the beginning of a “left” leaning period of governance in Greece, it is simply the extension and continuation of the most extreme populist trends in PASOK.
Therefore Greece is a country where the economic and social crisis has not triggered a political turmoil, but only a change of guard so that the old and dated PASOK and New Democracy could be followed by the young Turks of the “new PASOK”, Syriza.
Until yesterday that is. The election of Kyriakos Mitsotakis is the first truly significant political development in Greece in the 21st century. Because a significant percentage of the body of citizens decided that the Karamanlis period of New Democracy is over. And with it ends the post military dictatorship era, 1974 – 2016.
This election is a political event of major proportion.
Mr. Mitsotakis received the mandate to rejuvenate the party and make it a party that follows a new track, abandoning the “cast” like Karamanlis tradition. It is not an easy task. As a matter of fact, it is an extremely difficult one. But it can be done, and it opens a window of optimism in the cloudy political skies of Greece, where there has been nothing new since 1974.
What was new in 1974, was the marvelous twins, New Democracy and PASOK. They did well and brought the country to an almost complete disaster in 2015.Now Syriza is continuing the work of PASOK.
The election of Mr. Prokopis Pavlopoulos as the President of the Hellenic Republic in early 2015 indicated the underlying “good relations” between Mr; Karamanlis and Mr. Tsipras. Mr. Pavlopoulos has served as a minister under Mr. Karamanlis and is considered to belong to the “inner circle” of the ex prime minister.
In the period preceding yesterday’s election, it was almost openly disclosed that Mr. Karamanlis and Mr. Tsipras are on the same wagon, and this would be continued with the election of Mr. Meimarakis as the leader of New Democracy. Where there is smoke there is fire.
But New Democracy broke ranks and is now on a new route.
The coming months are going to be critical.
Mr. Mitsotakis has a lot to do, but the most important thing for now is to focus on the important. He must solidify his power base, listen to the people who elected him, craft a manifesto for the rejuvenation not only of New Democracy but also of Greek Politics at large, and receive a stamp of approval for all of this by a National Congress of New Democracy, that will also be an opportunity to bring new, currently idle, social and political groups in the party.
As the Chinese say, if you want to go fast, you must walk, not run.