Monday, January 11, 2016

Kyriakos Mitsotakis - A New Greek Wunderkind?

When observing Greece from the distance, a most interesting phenomenon occurred yesterday: literally within 24 hours, a party which for months had appeared on its death track returned to center stage of Greek politics with a splash. And all of that because of a young man with a good family name!

If Kyriakos Mitsotakis satisfies only half of the expectations which were placed upon him in recent hours, he will go down into Greek history as a great leader. One wonders how a man who has been receiving accolades ever since it became apparent that he would win his party's leadership could have received so comparatively little attention before the election. Yes, I do remember that he was often described as a rising star ever since he joined the previous government and, yes, I do remember that his ideas about modernizing Greece were quite impressive. However, I do not remember that anyone ever put him on a pedestal and praised him as the answer to Greece's problems. If anything, I had the impression that he was being viewed somewhat skeptically, if for no other reason than for his family name.

Well, things can change quickly and now Mr. Mitsotakis has been announced by many as the answer to Greece's problems. Perhaps Mr. Mitsotakis would be well advised to take a page from Barack Obama's first election. Obama, too, had been showered with expectations which no mortal could ever fullfil.

No party, and certainly no party with an established history and with established structures and processes, will ever change significantly within 24 hours. If I understand Mr. Mitsotakis' election correctly, it came down to a choice between socalled statists defending the past and present; in other words: more or less defending the status quo. And, on the other hand, the more open-minded, change-seeking new generation. The jubilation on the part of the latter is understandable but they should not overlook the fact that the former still represent close to half of the party.

Robert F. Kennedy's famous campaign slogan, borrowed from George Bernard Shaw, was: "Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream of things that never were and say, why not?" Mr. Mitsotakis needs to be mindful of the fact that the former are always in the majority (if they were not, changers would never get elected). When a status quo is challenged, a lot of vested interests are being challenged at the same time. And vested interests do not leave the battlefield without a fight. In fact, few powers are as strong as status quo's defending themselves.

I would hope that Mr. Mitsotakis does not follow in Andonis Samaras' footsteps when it comes to the style of dealing with political opponents, particularly when the latter are in government. One may gain valuable TV exposure by verbally destroying opponents in parliament and without it. However, in order to promote significant change, within the party and without it, one has to propose constructive alternatives at ever step of the way.

To give a specific example: when the pension reform comes up for debate, I would expect Mr. Mitsotakis not to destroy whatever the government is proposing. Instead, I would hope that he presents his own vision of a pension reform, hopefully in such a way that a majority of Greeks thinks that he makes sense. Any pension reform essentially boils down to 3 major variables: retirement age, level of contributions and level of pensions. When one cannot make everyone happy, the trick is to make everyone evenly and fairly unhappy. Perhaps people would understand the benefits for society of making younger people less unhappy than older people. And probably everyone (except the ones concerned) would accept that early retiree's should be made more unhappy than everyone else.

To make a long story short: observing Greece from the distance is a bit of a masochistic exercise because whatever one reads or hears focuses on the negative. All the things which are wrong in the country; all the things which don't work. It would be most refreshing to, for once, hear of positive alternatives which are well thought out and convincing. And if a handsome young politician with a big family name promotes such positive alternatives, Greece might have a bit of an "Age of the Kennedy's" before it.


  1. Ναι, ναι καρα-Wunderkind! Enjoy...

  2. As for your suggested distribution of the "unhappiness" I wholly agree with you. It is, however, a fact that there are more old and retiree voters than young people, that is the monster state the Greeks have created.

  3. According to recent polls the Greeks did it again, they favored a person, not a program. And a good thing that is, a program that could work, would show that we need better voters.

  4. Pity the nation that needs heroes.