Which way to the political centre?

Not so long time ago, a rule was used to measure voters’ trends in Greek politics. pinion poll participants were called to answer as to how they self-define themselves on a 1-10 imaginary ferule that represented the political spectrum (from the far-left to the ultra-right).

TV hosts and pollsters always talked about these findings trying to pinpoint the trends associated with once-upon-a-time dominant parties ND and PASOK. Each time an increased accumulation was found in the benefit of one over the other, a government potential was attached to each one of the big players.

Traditionally, Greek society has always been more centre-left than -right, a fact that made the aggregation of election power around ND a very difficult task. The ‘middle ground’ [i.e. centrist voters] was considered partisan leaders’ trophy by analysts; the last time this happened for the centre-right was in 2004 when Costas Karamanlis’ rhetoric managed to attract a wider social alliance that secured him six long years in power and marginal government effectiveness. Voters who kept their eyes shut towards the 2008 international crisis hoping that Greece will stay unaffected, powered George Papandreou’s election victory that followed in fall 2009. As most Greeks found out the hard way that approach failed big time, mainly because GP has been and remained ever since clueless as regards applied politics.

The crisis has changed all that. The political centre as a decisive election power gave way to dissatisfied groups of Greeks who saw their wealth being diminished in a rapid pace, their salaries and pensions cut, tax hikes charged upon them one after the other, whilst for most of the crisis period, big money managed to escape authorities for a series of reasons. Special relations of vested interests with corrupted public servants has been on of the reasons, which, politically, has proved as the most damaging parametre for the old partisan system.

During the crisis years, a significant number of voters moved away from the old system parties, longing for some reasoning amongst rebels who mounted the anti-austerity wave and grasped the opportunity to become leaders of political formations or parties. In the general chaos and disorientation the crisis has caused, the latter have managed to survive, not without suffering severe wounds due to SYRIZA expansion and Greeks’ conservative instincts that made many voters to remain close to the coalition government.

After the European elections, which apparently had very little to do with Europe itself, things are even more intense; the ruling party ND is suffering the political cost of prolonged austerity and new measures that are on the way and PASOK is still looking for its identity through its participation in a government that continues to make people miserable. SYRIZA seems to have exhausted its dynamism, lacking the ability to expand its reach towards more no-Left audiences. Other parties seem to keep their limited political presence, although there are cases that crisis-driven political drives are closing to an end.

Amidst this systemic battle amongst the old, many people (across the age spectrum) remain politically orphaned, lacking the reasoning to place themselves in one of the existing camps. They are also short of the appetite to become active in the political realm, since they think that although such a move is, nowadays, much easier to pull through, their voice will be buried under petty partisan considerations and inner fights for power.

Those people who are ideologically moderate and view the world through a modern prism constitute what we call ‘the political centre.’ Common sense, effectiveness, innovation, independence, freedom are some of the qualities these people share, for the time being only through postings on social networks.   

Three-plus-one political parties and trends are claiming the centrist crowd, which according to analysts has more wisdom than the average Greek.

Alexis Tsipras would really like to stand close to these people, perhaps due to his bourgeoisie past or/and his strong desire for power. However, SYRIZA’s left faction top figures fight against this option, first ideologically and secondly because they fear the moment they took over government.

Antonis Samaras’ chief advisors seem to keep their eyes shut towards what Karamanlis’ spin doctors used to call ‘middle ground’, identifying themselves as more ‘right’ than ‘centre’. Some weak efforts are made from the party itself to fish towards centrist voters. The problem is that for the time being they seem to lack the proper rhetoric.

Finally, PASOK has failed miserably to represent the centre, due to its diachronic attachment to obsolete and highly misrepresented ‘socialist’ views that primarily referred to the looting of the state apparatus by partisan tribes. Thus, Evangelos Venizelos is in front of a mission impossible that will not end happily.

The forth and largely unidentified player is the system itself as this is represented by entrepreneurs, intellectuals and some major political pundits who resort to common sense and realpolitik to mobilize the centrists’ moderation; nothing worth mentioning there in terms of results, at least for now.

All aforementioned attempts could prove hopeless, because they lack three important parametres: firstly, the definition of the contemporary ‘political centre’, secondly the ability to attract its proponents through the proper non-partisan initiatives and discourse and thirdly, a clear understanding of the new ‘attention economy.’

Demetris Kamaras

Journalism Professor and journalist, primarily online. Political analyst and communications specialist. Previous studies in economics (BA), communications policy (MA) and journalism (PhD), mostly in London. Born in Hove, Brighton. Lives in Athens, Greece. Blogs when necessary. Founded and running dailyGreece.net Private Information Network and alyunaniya.com [The Greek]. Occasional articles of friends are published on PostNews.eu. Interested in political communication, next-gen web apps, digital R&D, internet ethics and social networks. He taught journalism and communication at University of Indianapolis Athens (1999-2013). Published numerous analyses and op-eds, online and in print and his first book was titled: Digital Communication (Zenon Publications, London, 2000 – co-authorship). Recent publications: Crisis Talk; Greece (2012) – iBook/Avaialble on iTunes. Elections and the Internet, Digerati Publications (Athens, 2014) (in Greek).

View all posts by Demetris Kamaras →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.