Clash of gen­er­a­tions in New Democ­racy

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY COSTAS IORDANIDIS

It is not just in­so­lent but also a sign of their in­ten­tions that the New Democ­racy of­fi­cials who tran­si­tioned from the na­tion­al­ist LAOS party have been crit­i­cal of party pres­i­dent Evan­ge­los Meimarakis’s in­ten­tion to run in the lead­er­ship race. The rea­son Meimarakis moved the con­test so it would take place in the next few months rather than next year was pre­cisely this re­ac­tion from the ex-LAOS camp. His de­ci­sion, how­ever, also made other likely can­di­dates hes­i­tant to come for­ward be­cause this phase of the process was not pre­ceded by a se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion on where the con­ser­va­tives are headed af­ter their elec­tion de­feat in Septem­ber. The fact is that New Democ­racy can­not hope to con­tinue af­ter 40 years, in a world that is com­plete- ly changed, guided only by its found­ing prin­ci­ples. A cen­ter-right party such as ND does not need a rigid ide­o­log­i­cal frame­work, but it does need a nar­ra­tive that is in synch with the cur­rent re­al­ity. The bat­tle for suc­ces­sion is, right or wrong, be­ing framed as a con­test be­tween the old and the new, and this will not fa­vor Meimarakis, who is be­ing judged for his age even though he put up an ad­mirable bat­tle ahead of the elec­tions last month and man­aged to rally the cen­ter-right. Quite a few years older than the con­ser­va­tive chief, this writer is par­tic­u­larly fond of Meimarakis and ap­pre­ci­ates the con­tri­bu­tions he has made to the party not just dur­ing his brief stint as leader but over the course of his ca­reer in the ND fold. But even if he were to be re-elected to the helm, he would still be re­garded as rep­re­sent­ing the old, and not just by his archri­val, the young Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras, but also by many party cadres and MPs. It is not fair but we can­not ig­nore the fact that Greece is in the grips of ageism and, like it or not, this means that the fo­cus needs to be placed on can­di­dates from the “new gen­er­a­tion.” Of the three vy­ing for the top spot at ND right now, Kyr­i­akos Mit­so­takis and Ado­nis Ge­or­giadis may be young but they are cer­tainly not new. They have served as min­is­ters for more than five years, as par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tives or sim­ple MPs, and have been dom­i­nant fig­ures in the media for a while now. They have said ev­ery­thing they had to say, ex­hausted all their ar­gu­ments, and have been crit­i­cized of over­ex­po­sure and not be­long­ing firmly in the “old” camp. In con­trast, the third can­di­date, Apos­to­los Tz­itzikostas, has no po­lit­i­cal back­ground and does not carry the stigma of over­ex­po­sure. He has served as an MP and was elected as re­gional gover­nor of Cen­tral Mace­do­nia de­spite the fer­vent op­po­si­tion of for­mer party chief An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras, but he is still not part of the “old sys­tem.” He was likely saved by his dis­tance from the cen­ter of power, his ab­sence from Par­lia­ment in the past few years and, of course, his suc­cess as re­gional gover­nor. He also has the ad­van­tage of be­ing a rel­a­tively new face, but not one lack­ing in ex­pe­ri­ence.

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