First it was “Elia” (“The Olive”). Then it was “To Potami” (“The River”) founded by television journalist Stavros Theodorakis. Then it was the return of ex-prime minister George Papandreou with the KIDISO (the “Movement of Democratic Socialists”). This was followed by the “Dimokratiki Symparataxi” (“Democratic Alignment”). Somewhere in there one can also throw in former junior governing coalition partner DIMAR (the “Democratic Left”) and the “Enosi Kentroon” (“Centrists’ Union”), currently in parliament.
Save for the latter party, the remaining forces of the “old” and “new” PASOK, plus To Potami and DIMAR, have joined forces yet again, this time with the formal establishment of the “Kinima Allagis” (“Movement of Change”), which held its inaugural party congress this past weekend in Athens.
If one sees this and says that the deck chairs on the Titanic have merely been rearranged, they would not be wrong. At the congress, a parade of largely discredited “centrist” politicians made an appearance, dredging up not-too-distant memories of the politics (and the political figures) which drove Greece into a spiral of austerity, memorandums, and troika oversight.
In a tremendous bit of irony, disgraced former prime minister George Papandreou, unperturbed by the failure of his KIDISO party and apropos of nothing, appeared at the conference, calling for an end to the “hostage situation” the Greek people are facing by the “political, media, and economic establishment,” whilst adding that “[we] fought and are fighting for a Greece freed from dependencies of any kind. From lenders and from domestic or imported saviors and messiahs… from mentalities and attitudes which cultivated clientelism and the parasitic state.” The same parasitic state, of course, which his family helped foster.
In a shining example of “dumb and dumber,” Papandreou is also the re-elected president of the Socialist International. Papandreou has also previously announced that he will be a candidate with the “Movement of Change” for the first district of Athens, in the upcoming elections.
The even more discredited former prime minister Costas Simitis, largely reviled in Greece and without the advantage of the sentimental attachments to the family name that Papandreou enjoys, also took the stage at the party conference. With stunning arrogance, Simitis stated that “memorandums are not torn up in a day” and added that “in the future, all government policies will be co-determined with the agreements which are already in place with the EU and with our obligations towards our lenders.”
In other words, “memorandums until the sun burns out,” to paraphrase a saying which has become popular in Greece in recent years.
According to the leader of the new movement Fofi Gennimata, who was also a leader of the “Democratic Alignment,” PASOK will be a “major propelling force” of the new movement, which will maintain a clear identity, that of the “center-left.”
In turn, Theodorakis, the leader of “To Potami,” had perhaps the best quote of all from the party congress, stating that the “Movement of Change” must “…become the force of renewal. With the values of social democracy and political liberalism we must move forward down the new paths of modern European progressive thought.” Whatever that means.
Perhaps rekindling an old love affair, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of the main opposition party, the center-right New Democracy, addressed the “Movement of Change” party congress, stating that “we were opponents for 40 years, but the national interest comes first,” adding that “there are many issues where [we can] align,” while putting forth an electoral dilemma: “SYRIZA or democracy.” New Democracy co-governed with PASOK after the follow-up parliamentary elections of June 2012, up until December 2014.
Mitsotakis has also recently alluded to New Democracy’s desire to form a broad political coalition, following the next elections.
What is most notable about this “new” movement, however, is what wasn’t uttered at the party congress: this new political entity has a new tax identification number (AFM). What does this mean? Quite simply it means that the debts incurred by PASOK under its old AFM, estimated to range between €120-€200 million, can simply be bypassed.
This at the same time that Greek households can have their property seized for debts to banks or to the Greek state as low as €500.
Yes, change is in the air indeed. And the more things change, the more they stay the same.
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