This week in Greek politics, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a liberal politician and son of a former liberal prime minister, pulled off an unexpected victory in the leadership race for the opposition center-right New Democracy party. The vote might well have turned on the high turnout seen among independent voters and could represent a real shift in the attitude of a party that has for some time been guilty of dysfunction, potentially transforming it into a more dynamic outfit with a genuine chance at governing again.
Catching everyone by surprise, the impact of the result has already jolted the political system in Greece. Mitsotakis’ election could pave the way to freeing up broader political forces of the political center and raising the prospect of gravitating them closer to the New Democracy party. This is no accident. Mitsotakis’ political discourse has been surprisingly pragmatic with broad appeal that often sounds more Clintonian than the traditional conservative brand. He is in favor of equal opportunities for the unprivileged unemployed youth, while he emphasizes social solidarity, which should always complement free market capitalism. He is even a critic of extreme individualism undermining the public interest.
But these are early days. Mitsotakis’ command of the political midfield will need permanent and solid foundations, and he can only secure these if his new political and economic platform proves to be original, innovative, and focused on putting the Greek economy back on track. It remains to be seen if this will be the case. But one thing is for certain: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras now has a very competent opponent.