When former TV sales pitchman Adonis Georgiadis, he of the famous rants trying to lure you to buy books about Ancient Greece’s glory, jumped into the race to become the new leader of the faded New Democracy Capitalists you could almost hear Judy Collins singing Send in the Clowns.
The party, which along with the now obscure PASOK Anti-Socialists took turns ruining Greece for four decades, has been in a free fall since former leader and reluctant premier Costas “The Invisible Man” Karamanlis’ governments from 2004-09 lied so much about the economy you would have though Pinocchio was finance minister.
That prevarication led his successor, then-PASOK leader George “The Money is There” Papandreou to go begging to international lenders for what turned into three bailouts of 346 billion euros ($387.9) billion – for a country with a Gross Domestic Product of 271.5 billion euros, or $304.37 billion.
That’s like you earning $50,000 a year and borrowing $75,000 from the bank, terms only a country can get because it just keeps taxing people to death to pay for the same kind of incompetence, mismanagement and greed that is taking New Democracy toward the dustbin of history too unless it can rally around a leader with at least an ounce of charisma, smarts and who believe in a Timocracy.
From Karamanlis’ win in 2004 with 3,359,058 votes to interim leader Evangelos Meimarkis’ beating on Sept. 20 when he garnered only 1,526,205 votes in a thrashing at the hands of the Looney Left SYRIZA, New Democracy lost 1,832,853 votes, or 54 percent of its base.
The only worse beating was taken by PASOK, which lost almost 90 percent of its voters – 2,661,141 of them in the same period. That was, incredibly skewed in its favor in the last election when the equally-useless Democratic Left (DIMAR) joined in an alliance of the unable.
New Democracy, as did PASOK, paid a heavy price for agreeing to impose harsh austerity measures in return for the money needed to save Greece from the two parties who destroyed it.
The Conservatives’ former leader, Antonis Samaras, waffled so much on austerity his face could have been on a maple syrup bottle. He shunted himself aside in July after Greeks refused to listen to him advising them to go along with more of the conditions he had opposed, supported, opposed, supported and opposed and supported.
He spun around so much a weathervane could have been named after him although it wouldn’t hold up well in a storm. Even he could see his day was over, coinciding with New Democracy’s demise into a perpetual also-ran.
That turned the reins temporarily over to the 61-year-old former parliamentary speaker Meimarakis, who had to fend off charges of wrongdoing at one point before returning to that job and suddenly finding himself head of the party when then-Premier and SYRIZA leader Alexis, “The Reneger” Tsipras stepped down and called the September elections to rid himself of rebels angry he lied to them and voters about a promise to reverse pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions, worker firings and privatizations.
Now New Democracy is holding a contest at the end of October – just around the time Tsipras will whack Greece’s most vulnerable, the ones he vowed to protect, with more big tax hikes and pension cuts.
The Conservatives will pick a new leader in a crucial contest that will determine whether it wants to stay tethered to a failed past or present even a glimmer of hope and promise for what’s left of its crumbling base of the disenchanted, disillusioned and disgusted.
It’s not a promising field. Politics being what it is, Meimarakis will be seen as the favorite because he was the leader for a few months before leading New Democracy to another butt kicking at the feet of SYRIZA. Before the actual vote in September he acquitted himself well before voters found him as dull as dishwater.
Not the guy you want leading New Democracy and it was unsure up to October 1, a day before the deadline for announcing, if he would even want the thankless job of being pushed around by Tsipras until the SYRIZA leader asks for a fourth bailout and another snap election in which he would ask voters for a third chance to get it right.
The short list also included – not including latecomers – the party’s pit bull Georgiadis, relatively unknown Central Macedonia Governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas and the man who is the only obvious choice, former Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
He is the son of a former Prime Minister Constantinos Mitsotakis and sister of party stalwart and former Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni, who should have been party leader before she pulled a Hillary Clinton and assumed the job was hers, losing to Samaras.
Mitsotakis, 46, had an uneven performance in overseeing the country’s bloated public workforce but is young, Harvard-educated and has some pep and vision. He could be a centrist unifier and not a divider and when you’re looking to the future, 46 is better than 61 right off the bat.
New Democracy by itself isn’t the answer to saving Greece but neither is SYRIZA, so it’s up to Mitsotakis to take over the party and then define a dream that isn’t in keeping with its past of scandal, corruption and depriving people of hope.