Having snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in last month’s Greek national elections, the interim leader of conservative opposition party Nea Demokratia eventually did the decent thing and resigned, paving the way for a leadership election. Most commentators would agree that the centre-right party, which just celebrated its 41st anniversary and was until recently one of two major parties to take turns at governing Greece in the post-junta era, is suffering a crisis of identity. A lot therefore rides on their next choice of leader
Below is a brief guide to the four leadership candidates who cleared the nomination hurdle by obtaining 50 signatures each from the party’s Political Committee, in order of nomination. The final vote, at a date yet to be determined, will be decided by the party membership nationwide. Not much has been discussed about policy this far, so let’s read the runes…
Kyriakos Mitsotakis (male, 47). First to declare, we have profiled him elsewhere as a poster boy for Greece’s dynastic politics – with all the baggage that entails. Hence, his opponents refer to him as a “political test tube baby”. For the same reason, he prefers to be known as “just Kyriakos” (his twitter campaign uses the hashtag #metonKyriako, “with Kyriakos”). He is campaigning on a modernising platform. His surname is not his only handicap. When ND was last in government only a year ago, he held the politically “courageous” (as Sir Humphrey would put it) post of Minster of Administrative Reform, aka. Minister for Sacking Civil Servants. As a former McKinsey consultant he brought impeccable credentials to the tasks of “rationalising” and “rightsizing”, but politically these will not be vote-winners.
Apostolos Tzitzikostas (male, 37 going on 60). Like Kyriakos, but with less dynastic baggage (his father was a ND MP and minister under the elder Karamanlis, noted for his royalist tendencies). On paper, Tzitzikostas is pretty close to an identikit sketch of the dream opposition leader, that mythical creature often referred to as the “anti-Tsipras”: young, (mostly) self-made, internationalist, with cross-party support and hands-on business experience. He is US-educated, interned with a moderate Republican Congressman (whose only controversial moment was defending Scientology against alleged discrimination), before returning to Greece to start a modern dairy company. He is very active in civil society (from the Red Cross to neoliberal think-tanks) and a fan of technology, going so far as to suggest that the ND leadership election should be an electronic vote – controversial given the carefully cultivated technophobia among the Greek political class. He became nationally known in 2013 when he invited the local neo-Nazi Golden Dawn representatives to stand alongside other elected party officials in the 28th October parade in Thessaloniki, a decision he justified on the grounds that they were legitimately elected. Beyond that, he has two serious handicaps in the leadership race: fist, he is not currently a Member of Parliament, as he is serving as Governor of Central Macedonia, a post for which he ran as an independent; second, most of his ties are in the north of Greece. Down in the capital, where the nation’s demographic and political centre of gravity lies, δεν τον ξέρει ούτε η μάνα του (even his mother hasn’t heard of him, as they say in my village). Your mum on the other hand would love it if you brought him to dinner, which makes him, er, not terribly exciting.
Vangelis Meimarakis (male, 61). The accidental leader who got a taste for power mainly as a result of wildly inaccurate opinion polls in the lead-up to September’s elections. We have profiled him extensively elsewhwere. One for the old guard, the only genuine fossil candidate guaranteed to awaken the ghosts of ND past. Doesn’t “do” social media, and if he uses email one imagines he dictates it to his secretary. On the plus side, no embarrassing historical tweets. On the minus side, need I say more?
Adonis Georgiadis (male, 42). Comedy mid-20th century populist dictator, also profiled previously as a prime example of “infomercial politics“. Self-made (“self-made what?” it would be fair to ask). His life is an open Twitter feed: however, anyone wishing to mine for reactionary gems will have to wade through terabytes of saccharine over-sharing with his adoring and equally ambitious reality TV star wife @ManolidouE. Submitted his leadership application 7 minutes late after a farcical race against the clock and the highway code (he bragged about running red lights) that may or may not have been a stunt for the cameras (in his mind, Bruce Willis, in everyone else’s, the late Greek physical comedian Thanasis Veggos). His application was waved through anyway. Significant “Corbyn risk”: the grandees who nominated him out of a sense of “fair play” may end up with more than they bargained for. Would he make the trains run on time? Not on current evidence.
Who didn’t run?
Kyriakos’s big sister Dora Bakoyianni, or her son Kostas Bakoyiannis (too late, too soon, respectively?); Adonis’s former LAOS stablemate Makis Voridis (who knows what skeletons are in his closet from his time as a pro-junta youth leader to deter him?); former high-ranking minister Nikos Dendias (a charisma-free zone, but one of the most staunch opponents of Golden Dawn, very capable and principled by all accounts); Tzitzikostas’s predecessor in Central Macedonia, convicted serial fraudster Panagiotis Psomiadis (enough said).
Image: Stills from the 1962 Greek comedy “Οι Γαμπροί της Ευτυχίας” (The Suitors of Eutychia) in which the protagonist jumps through hoops to find a husband for his spinster sister Eutychia (whose name translates as Joy). Eutychia ends us marrying her childhood sweetheart. Let’s hope this story has a different ending.