The political-party engines in Athens have been turned on and are ready to go. New Democracy has been holding its 13th congress since Friday. Amidst a festive atmosphere, Kyriakos Mitsotakis kicked off the operations by signaling the motto: “The future starts now”.
At the same time, a few miles away, Alexis Tsipras is getting ready to address the new body formed with the participation of hundreds of SYRIZA executives, the allied scheme of the Progressive Alliance, as well as celebrities from the center-left, arts and crafts, trade unionism, self-government and youth organizations.
Both processes aim for a fresh start. For New Democracy, which still enjoys the triumph of its electoral dominance over its political opponent, the point is to seal the renewal of the party’s image, as Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ leadership sought to present it.
The “front against populism” and “the responses to the challenges of the modern world” comprise the two main themes of the congress. However, as it appeared from the position Kyriakos Mitsotakis kept, the narrative of growth and of combating tax inequalities continues to be dominant. The same goes, of course, for the “order and security” scheme.
On the other hand, SYRIZA is basically kicking off the process of reconstruction and transformation, which will be completed at the party’s convention in the spring of 2020. Alexis Tsipras will reiterate his call for progressive and left-wing citizens and their organized forces to increase their representation within the party.
There are three guidelines: Integration of new members and matching of electoral power with the party force; the reconstruction of the party with the involvement of political allies and an enhanced presence in social spaces; and the development of a progressive political governance program “against the restoration of the most hard-core rightist state”.
Although congress proceedings and founding meetings always take place amid a festive ambiance, Mitsotakis and Tsipras will be called upon to handle different problems. The prime minister might have been rather content regarding the economic development and the measures his government has legislated, yet the contradictions between what it declared and what it ended up implementing have begun to emerge.
Especially when it comes to measures in support of the middle class, which has been the “emblem” of Mr. Mitsotakis’ days as main opposition, according to the tax bill the alleviations do not match what was promised prior to the elections.
Yet the biggest challenge the government is facing remains that of the refugee issue. With flows increasing and Ankara not showing one bit of willingness to compromise, mayors, regional governors and local New Democracy officials refuse to implement the plan announced reegarding asylum seekers’ transportation and closed centers on the islands. Even the voters appeared distressed from those proclamations, as well as from the placement of governors in public hospitals with strong party criteria.
For Alexis Tsipras, it is the criticism he receives, both from within the party and from the opposition that causes him a headache, alongside the strong presence of PASOK executives in the new Central Reconstruction Committee. Already the intra-party opposition, the 53+ movement in which former finance minister Ev. Tsakalotos also participates, has expressed reservations regarding the process, while the Youth of the Party appears sceptic as well.
At the same time, the former prime minister is called upon to successfully manage three fronts that have opened up: Rebuilding the party by reinforcing and enlarging the body of its members; organizing effective opposition against New Democracy; and preparing SYRIZA in the event of an extraordinary electoral process. This last case constitutes a scenario circulated by the pro-government press, which also caught they eye of the Minister of the Interior Affairs. /ibna