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European spirit has never managed to spread in Greece

12 April 2012 / 14:04:02  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The pre-election period is already underway in Greece. The political situation is tenser than ever. Emerging parties are preparing to benefit from the citizens’ discontent regaqrding PASOK and New Democracy, which were the main players until today. GRReporter turned to political analyst Plamen Tonchev, who has been closely monitoring the developments in Greek politics and society for decades, for analyses.

He graduated in philology and subsequently, in European Institutions and Diplomacy at the University of Athens. He worked as a research associate of Greek politicians and as an adviser to the European Commission. He was involved in EU and OSCE missions observing the elections in Eastern Europe and Asia. He is the author of a number of scientific articles and books.

"The keyword is fragmentation of the political spectrum in Greece. It is obviously a consequence of the apparent end of the cycle that began in 1974 with the establishment of the two major parties PASOK and New Democracy and the legalization of the Communist Party. It is not an accident that according to polls, the two parties together collect only about 35% of the preferences of the respondents. They seem to have lost the social support on which they relied and from which they benefited for decades. Their split and the emergence of all these small parties and factions around them is a natural phenomenon. This is not only due to the crisis in the past two years. It is just that PASOK and New Democracy have become politically and ideologically obsolete and are close to their end.

If the mission of New Democracy formed by then Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis in 1974 was for Greece to join the European Community, it was completed long ago. If the mission of PASOK formed by Andreas Papandreou in 1974 was to give the left a chance to access education, health care, find its place in the political arena, it was also completed and overachieved.

As Antonio Gramsci would say, "The old world is dying away, and the new world is struggling to come forth." In my opinion, Greece is exactly at this stage - this cycle has been completed but it is not yet clear whether the new cycle has come and what it looks like."

The political analyst is not convinced that the two parties will disappear completely. He believes that even if they keep their names, they should be re-established on new foundations.

"In Greece, there have always been three fundamental forces: the Communists on the left, PASOK and New Democracy. All new small parties and factions, the exact number of which I do not even know, are the result of fragmentation of the two major parties. There have always been federations and confederations of movements and wings. In PASOK, there has always been a left wing, centrists and the so-called "right", according to the standards of the party. New Democracy has always had a centrist wing, more moderate and liberal politicians and a classic right or the so-called populist's right, as it is known here. I think that all these movements have no ideological common ground. Actually, the moderate wing of New Democracy has always been close to some extent to the centrists of PASOK. Quantitative ratios that still give some idea have always been 70% of the populist right to 30% of the moderate liberals in New Democracy. In PASOK, centrists are 20% versus 80% for the left wing.

The terms centrist left and centrist right have always been very opportunistic. They have never been grounded on an ideology and the big battles have always taken place inside the two parties. These concepts were simple tools for taking and exercising power. I.e., victories of both parties were due to the centre. Centrists, as voters, are always more moderate. Therefore, as thoughtful people, they consider "what is useful to me now and what will be useful to me later." But the battle has been always grounded on the principle of what they will give the voters, cynically speaking. Because in today's crisis, it is no longer possible to grant any benefits to people, that opportunistic principle is not effective. Clientelism is no longer in force and this explains the withdrawal of many people from parties generally. It also explains why the PASOK left and New Democracy right, which are more populist, can no longer rely on state and government benefits. That is why so many new small parties have appeared."

According to some analysts, like sociologist George Siakandaris, upcoming elections in Greece will be the clash of the forces that are "for" and "against" the European future of Greece. Many Greeks regard the European Union and its leading countries as enemies. And this despite the fact that the country is perhaps the most favoured state of the European Union in financial terms not only before but also during the severe financial crisis.

Tags: PoliticsPASOKNew DemocracyPopulismSocietyEuropean unionPlamen Tonchev
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