Athens, January 18, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Zacharias Petrou
Latest opinion polls are very encouraging for the leader of Greece’s main opposition party.
Since Kyriacos Mitsotakis triumphed over Evangelos Meimarakis in the conservative party’s leadership election on January 10, the party has emerged as a real alternative to the ruling Syriza-ANEL coalition led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
The first opinion polls show that Mitsotakis’ victory has created hope amongst moderate, pro-European centrists that Alexis Tsipras will be strongly challenged.
A poll by Alco for Proto Thema newspaper puts Syriza at 18 percent – down from 35.4 percent in September’s general election – with New Democracy coming in first with 21.3 percent. A Metron Analysis poll for Parapolitika newspaper also gives New Democracy the lead over Syriza with the parties on 23.6 pct and 19.9 pct respectively.
The election of Kyriacos Mitsotakis as leader of New Democracy is expected to significally impact the Greek political system with ramifications for the left and center-left parties (Syriza, PASOK and Potami) especially.
Moderate voters hope Mitsotakis is now well positioned to play the ‘modernization/Europe vs. populism/nationalism’ card effectively. Analysts point out that this can expand the conservative party’s appeal to the centre, where parties like PASOK and To Potami have disappointed voters, and capitalize on discontent with Syriza and the third bailout.
Mitsotakis has a clear strategy towards attracting voters from the modest, pro-European center of the political spectrum. He will attempt to rally those who voted “Yes” in the referendum around New Democracy.
New Democracy, under Mistotakis, will change its strategy in opposition giving much attention to presenting an alternative proposal each time the party votes against a piece of legislation Syriza-ANEL bring to parliament. This will create the impression to the public that the main opposition party is ready to govern with a concrete plan and a set of proposals to take the country out of the crisis.
New Democracy MP Costis Hatzidakis who will be in charge of shaping the party’s program will play an important role in presenting proposals that are concise and specific in every crucial policy area. Also, each ND proposal will be fully thought out fiscally and backed by the budgetary numbers.
The party will also attempt to attract minds from academia, finance, business and society to shape the center-right ideas that will bring back voters to the party – especially those who have abstained from voting in recent elections.
New Democracy will not necessarily seek to entice opposition MPs to join the party (although one or two might) but rather it will try to build communication channels with modest, pro-EU, centrist political forces in the wider sense. Of course, shifting the party to the center could displease traditional conservatives, rallied around Karamanlis, inside New Democracy (considering that Mitsotakis only beat Meimarakis by a 52%-48% margin this is a serious issue).