Greece: Conservatism is the new Liberalism
After Greek elections, all big media outlets celebrate the defeat of populism in Greece and see the new Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, as the politician who will bring a new era of prosperity and development. Well, the last politician who was pushed by the media and was proclaimed as the man who would change Europe was Emmanuel Macron and that didn’t end well…
Obviously, if the point of comparison is Syriza, whose half of its cabinet was composed of ex communists and people who were leading student occupations at universities, New Democracy’s government looks astonishing; and to be fair, among the new government you can find prominent people who show that Greece is changing chapter.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis has described himself as liberal reformist and he is the son of Konstantinos Mitsotakis, the first pro-market liberal prime minister in Greece. However, he leads a party which is deeply-rooted conservative and this has led him to compromise with the hard-right wing of his party. New Democracy is usually described as center-right party, but comparing to other European center-right parties is much more conservative.
Under the presidency of the ‘’liberal’’ Mitsotakis, New Democracy has voted against the legalization of medical cannabis, the foster care by same sex couples and granting citizenship to children of immigrants born in Greece. His party also voted against the Prespa Agreement, claiming that Macedonians don’t have the right to call themselves Macedonians. At the same time, he has proudly rejected the separation of church and state.
The question then arises: is Mitsotakis really liberal? On the one hand he is favor of a free market economy, but on the other hand he rejects fundamental individual rights, that shouldn’t be subject to public vote. His liberal supporters will tell you that he is liberal but he has to compromise with the conservative wing of his party.
To a point, it is unfair to criticize politicians for not sticking to their principles, because everyone has to make compromises, given the circumstances; but seriously, what would be the difference if Greece had a conservative prime minister? Historically, economic liberalism has been expressed mostly by conservative politicians and New Democracy is de facto socially conservative.
Even though liberalism has become the most popular ideology in Greece, many of the self-proclaimed liberals are deep down nationalists and statists who don’t accept individuality. The same that happened in the US last century, with the left conquering the term liberalism, seems to be happening now in Greece from the right. Some liberals may be happy for having a ‘’liberal’’ prime minister, but what is really happening is the misconception of liberalism.
A wise man once told me: When you judge politicians, you shouldn’t focus on how much liberal they are, but on how much liberal they can be, given the circumstances. Can Mitsotakis be more liberal? I say yes.
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