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Nicosia,
07 December, 2019
 
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Authoritarian, divisive, hard right?

People can accuse ND and Mitsotakis of many things. But the ruling party is not far-right

Athanasios Ellis

Athanasios Ellis

A few days ago, the New York Times published an opinion piece on political developments in Greece on its front page in which the author denounced the return to power of the “hard” right under the leadership of an “authoritarian” prime minister with “anti-democratic instincts.”

I will not focus on the failure of the authoritative paper – which has been the main source of information for this columnist for the better part of his life and a point of reference in discussions about serious, objective journalism – to mention the writer’s particular relationship with the country’s former prime minister Alexis Tsipras. A lot has been written on the subject, while the paper has added an editor’s note to the online text.

I will focus on the essence of the opinion piece. New Democracy, which received 40 percent of the vote in the July general election, is not an “authoritarian” party. And Kyriakos Mitsotakis is not a “hard-right” politician, in the same way that one would not call the German Christian Democrats and Chancellor Angela Merkel “hard right.” One may disagree with Merkel’s policies, but an authoritarian leader with undemocratic instincts she is not. Tsipras is well aware of the fact and cooperated very well with her.

People can accuse ND and Mitsotakis of many things. But the ruling party is not far-right, and its leader is neither authoritarian nor a misogynist. As for nepotism, this is indeed a reality that must end. However, this issue is not only found in Greece – the Bush and Clinton families are very recent examples – and most importantly, in the case of the premier, he is more Kyriakos and less Mitsotakis.

I don’t know what will happen in the future – whether Mitsotakis will prove a good prime minister remains to be seen and will be assessed in due course. If he slips toward polarizing policies, we will criticize him. But so far, he has not been divisive. Similarly, the main opposition has shown a willingness for consensus.

As far as North Macedonia is concerned, it is the least painful agreement Greece could have achieved. However, even on this topic, the incumbent premier had made it clear while he was still in the opposition that Greece, as a serious European country, honors the international agreements signed by its democratically elected governments, and would respect and enforce the Prespes agreement. Tsipras bears some of the responsibility on the lack of consensus on the matter, as he aimed for political gains through the deal.

The state of public broadcasting and public administration in general is a long-standing problem and concerns everyone. What is certain, though, is that Greece has not been a beacon of meritocracy over the past four and a half years and has not suddenly descended into a dark period.

As for the abolition of the university asylum law, the country’s educational institutions belong to the students and professors and they should be able to express their opinions freely – even those some may consider extreme. But there shouldn’t be vandals smashing and burning public property or selling drugs. Is wanting to prevent such behavior a return to the “hard right”?

Ideological opponents of the premier have every right to fundamentally disagree with his policies, but to conclude that – just a month after he was sworn in – the country is faced with an “authoritarian” and “divisive” “hard right” is, to put it mildly, rather exaggerated.

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