ND’s Mitsotakis: Greece was the first country where populists gained power

In the aftermath of the global economic crisis of 2009-2010, which effectively marked the beginning of the most recent wave of attacks on democratic principles and order around the world, Greece was the first country that was engulfed by and eventually voted populist forces into power in 2015, main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a “New York Times” and “Euro2day.gr” tribute focusing on the challenges and threats to democracy. The Greek version of the tribute was published in Euro2day on Thursday.

“Most European countries, in particular those that were faced with similar challenges, were able to keep populists relatively at bay; in the legislative branch of government, but at least away from the executive. Greece was unfortunate in this respect and to this day its democratic institutions and processes remain constantly under attack. But three years down the road, both civil society above all and the political class have been able to shed light on the path to normalcy,” he said.

“The case of Greece is a most interesting and worthwhile example for every democracy and peoples around the world because it has followed a rather standard playbook from its rise to its fall,” he added.

“Of course, before coming into power, populists in Greece were able to tap into civil discontent and frustration, the result of the fiscal tightening imposed as the result of the unfolding of the Greek economic crisis in 2010. It is true that the effective bankruptcy of the public sector and the state upended some Greek norms, in particular the very unhealthy and awkward mix of clientelism and state interference in the private economy. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people became unemployed and elements of the social contract disrupted as pensions and other public benefits were slashed,” Mitsotakis noted.