Conservative New Democracy is a middle-class party with a long tradition; it will never transform into a purely leader-focused party like SYRIZA. SYRIZA, on the other hand, is Alexis Tsipras – nothing more, nothing less.
If Tsipras decided tomorrow morning to change jobs or pursue a fresh career in Brussels, his leftist SYRIZA party would most probably return to its small-party roots of yesteryear.
New Democracy has never been like that, and it never will be. Most importantly, it must never try to follow that model.
Strong conservative leaders such as Constantinos Mitsotakis and Costas Karamanlis respected different views and never sought to impose their own opinion on anyone inside the party.
The former believed in inner-party democracy (a conviction that often came at a cost), while the latter saw himself as first among equals.
SYRIZA therefore has a tactical advantage vis-a-vis the main opposition. No one is pushing things to the limit and there are no such thing as party barons among the leftists. Even those who may sometimes criticize certain policies make sure they do not cross any red lines, not even pink ones for that matter.
Furthermore, being a relatively young party gives SYRIZA an extra advantage. Old party disputes and rivalries are not imprinted on its DNA. What happened 20 or 30 years ago interests no one and plays no role whatsoever.
As we draw closer to the general election, the center-right party should pay attention to the advantages of its leftist rival – whose officials, by the way, spend much of their days conjuring up ways of sowing division in other parties.
A New Democracy veteran was saying the other day that the conservatives are a “party of moaners.” In-party democracy, which is cherished by conservative chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis, obviously has its positive and negative aspects, but it should come with limits.
In the runup to the crucial next elections, there can be no room for long-running inner-party vendettas nor those who want the stage for themselves. New Democracy will never resemble a church with only one person speaking. But it must not look like a gathering place where different people speak at the same time, creating a cacophony at the expense of a single, unified voice.
Many say a party must not try to solve such issues before elections. But if history is any guide, a party should not attempt to tackle them while in power.