The arena of Par­lia­ment

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY COSTAS IORDANIDIS

New Democ­racy is pro­ject­ing a very un­for­tu­nate im­age in its in­abil­ity to set a date for its lead­er­ship con­test, with no short­age of drama. Sure, this is in part the con­se­quence of push­ing for­ward the elec­tion of a new pres­i­dent by six months but such phe­nom­ena nev­er­the­less be­long firmly in the past. That said, there are some is­sues cloud­ing the process, no­tably the fact the one of the can­di­dates, Apos­to­los Tz­itzikostas, is not a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment. This has led some to ar­gue that if the re­gional gover­nor of Cen­tral Mace­do­nia, whose terms ends in 2019, does win the race, he will not have a seat in the House from which he can ex­cer­cise op­po­si­tion against Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras. The ar­gu­ment cer­tainly has merit but it should not hold up the process as the prob­lem will be re­solved once it presents it­self. Af­ter all, ND is al­ready rep­re­sented in Par­lia­ment by two for­mer prime min­is­ters, three can­di­dates for the party lead­er­ship as well as nu­mer­ous ex­pe­ri­enced of­fi­cials. One of them will step for­ward to speak for the party’s par­lia­men­tary group. At the end of the day, Tsipras is hardly a gi­ant of rhetoric in his par­lia­men­tary ap­pear­ances. He usu­ally ap­pears with speeches pre­pared by his as­so­ci­ates, which he sim­ply reads and em­bel­lishes with a few catchy one-lin­ers for the sake of the tele­vi­sion au­di­ence. Great po­lit­i­cal or­a­tors, like the leg­endary Ge­or­gios Pa­pan­dreou, al­lur­ing yet of­ten fate­ful, were of a breed that is long dead. The only speaker we have seen in re­cent years who has shown some tal­ent on the podium is Evan­ge­los Venize­los, the for­mer leader of so­cial­ist PA­SOK, who was un­doubt­edly Tsipras’s sharpest and most elo­quent critic. When he took the stand, even New Democ­racy MPs would rush into the cham­ber to en­joy his or­a­tory and would have ap­plauded him had they not been re­stricted by their sense of party loy­alty. But Venize­los’s tal­ents have fallen by the way­side as PA­SOK has col­lapsed. No one can be happy about the fact that bat­tles in Par­lia­ment be­tween party chiefs are so rarely watched by the public and of­ten com­mented on in a de­pre­ci­a­tory fash­ion in the media the fol­low­ing day. And no one, not cit­i­zens nor politi­cians, can re­ally be­lieve that a party’s par­lia­men­tary pres­ence can be di­min­ished. How­ever, the idea that a party pres­i­dent can set­tle for mak­ing a hand­ful of pop­u­lar ap­pear­ances over the course of the year is just not good enough. When Costas Kara­man­lis was elected pres­i­dent of New Democ­racy, he trav­eled all across Greece to meet his public and of­fi­cials. Even though he was an ex­cel­lent or­a­tor in Par­lia­ment, he did not rest on his lau­rels. So who­ever is elected to lead the party next should know that a few im­pres­sive du­els in Par­lia­ment are not enough to give the cen­ter-right the push and the energy it needs to ex­pe­ri­ence a re­vival.

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