Dora Bakoyannis launched her new party, Democratic Alliance, to much fanfare today. To succeed, she will have to ensure that those trumpets sound fresh and hopeful when the next general elections come around, rather than playing the same old tunes that everyone has heard a thousand times before.
Bakoyannis claims that the era of two-party domination in Greece is over. She may be right. Everything over the last couple of years has pointed to that and the debt crisis and the subsequent arrival of the International Monetary Fund has only sped that process up. The emphatic way in which voters turned their backs on PASOK and New Democracy in the local elections this month was evidence that people are now willing to make their dissatisfaction known at the ballot box rather than just at the dinner table. A GPO poll of those that didn’t vote – who were the majority in the second round – indicated that more than half abstained because they were fed up with the political system as a whole.
It is into this no man’s land that Bakoyannis hopes to gingerly tread. She sees an opportunity to attract disgruntled voters from here former party, New Democracy, and PASOK to a centrist, liberal group that wants to eschew the bickering and self-serving of the past.
However, for her party to have any hope of making an impact, she must be careful not to fall into the very big trap she has set herself. First of all, it is unenviable task to campaign against the political establishment and the idea of nepotism and cronyism, when you are a product of this system (Bakoyannis’s father, Constantinos Mitsotakis, was a former ND leader and prime minister and her late husband, Pavlos Bakoyannis, was a conservative MP). To be fair to Bakoyannis, she does not shy away from this fact – nor could she if she wanted to be taken seriously – and responds by saying that she is prepared to do things differently. “The question now is, will we politicians, who are a product of the old way of thinking, get the message right and change ourselves?” she told the New York Times in June. Nevertheless, people will have to see evidence of this fairly quickly if she is going to be convincing. If she slips into the pattern of exchanging barbs with ND leader Antonis Samaras, for instance, people are likely to switch off pretty quickly.
Also, she will need new faces – ones which have not been tarnished by previous political dealings – in her party. The collection of former ND and PASOK deputies who gathered at the launch of the Democratic Alliance at the Badminton Theater in Goudi did not seem a particularly good way of sending out a message that this is a party that will be doing things differently. Bakoyannis needs some old hands on board to add a bit of gravitas and ensure that the media picks up on what some familiar faces have to say but it will not serve her well in the long-term. Having promised to draw a line under the past, she will have to do exactly that.
Under the electoral law that will apply at the next general election, the leading party could be able to form a majority government with just 37 or 38 percent of the vote. So, if Bakoyannis wants to be in a position to be a junior partner in a coalition government, which surely must be her aim, she will need to pick up at least 5 percent of the vote. To do that, she has to ensure she hits the right notes pretty quickly.