Clash of generations in New Democracy
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.