Become a Patron

Is Kinalification a Thing? The Hope of a Post-Pasokification Comeback

The Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK-S&D) was one of the most dominant parties in Greek history and one of the major centre-left parties in Europe. Being founded in 1974 by Andreas Papandreou and rising to power in 1981, it reigned in greek politics for over 30 years and was in fact so dominant that its fall created a term for when major centre-left parties decline and left-wing and right-wing parties rise in their stead. 

The ‘Pasokification’ of PASOK came following the global financial crisis after 2008 that saw the PASOK government embracing austerity measures and Greece signing a memorandum with the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission. A year and a half into the implementation of the programme, Prime Minister George Papandreou (PASOK-S&D)—son of the iconic Andreas Papandreou—ended up resigning. Subsequently PASOK joined a coalition government with centre-right New Democracy and national-conservative LAOS (EFD)1EFD was a now-defunct European Parliamentary Group that hosted parties like Italian Lega Nord and British UKIP. with the central banker Lucas Papademos as the new PM.

The next national elections in 2012 have been described as a double earthquake election, as it brought the fragmentation of the party system. The far-right neo-nazi Golden Dawn (~NI) and newly founded parties like the national-conservative ANEL (ECR) and centre-left DIMAR (~S&D) entered parliament, left-wing SYRIZA (LEFT) rose exponentially and PASOK saw its vote share crumble. The prominent centre-left party went from 43.9% in 2009 to just 13.2% in May of 2012 and 12.3% in June of the same year.

The centre-left in disarray

The following years saw PASOK be part of the ND government and split-off parties came and went, as parties like George Papandreou’s KIDISO and Andreas Loverdos’ RIKSSY and NEEL were created with not much success.2Andreas Loverdos had been a PASOK MP since 2000 and had served in multiple ministerial posts. He created the short-lived Radical Movement of Social Democratic Alliance (RIKKSY-*) in 2012 and then the Agreement for the New Greece (NEEL-*) in 2013. He cooperated with PASOK once again joining the Olive Tree electoral alliance in the 2014 European elections and rejoining the party in 2014.

The Movement of Democratic Socialists (KIDISO-S&D) was created by George Papandreou in 2015, a few weeks before the 2015 January national parliamentary election. The centre-left party ran in the elections receiving 2.5% of the vote and failing to enter parliament. While the party did not run in the subsequent September election, it is still active as a constituent party within KINAL.

At the same time multiple alliances and coalitions were formed around PASOK. First it was the Olive Tree electoral alliance that borrowed its name from the Italian centre-left and ran in the 2014 European elections receiving eight per cent and electing two MEPs3A fall of 28.6 percentage points and six seats from PASOK’s 2009 results.. Then it was the Democratic Alignment (DISI) that was the electoral coalition of PASOK and DIMAR, which received 6.4% in the 2015 September elections and was in January of 2017 joined by KIDISO as well. And finally in 2018 came Movement for Change (KINAL). KINAL was established with PASOK, KIDISO, To Potami and DIMAR as constituent parties, with the latter two leaving in the coming years. KINAL is, therefore, a somewhat direct successor of yesteryear’s PASOK.

Since 2015 Fofi Gennimata had been the leader of PASOK, Democratic Alignment and subsequently KINAL. Her presidency saw the party go from its lowest ever result at 4.7% in January 2015 to 6.3% in September of the same year to 8.1% in 2019 and the party rose from its lowest ever position at seventh to third.

2021 leadership election

Following reschedulings due to COVID-19 and internal discussions the leadership contest was set for the fifth of December of last year. Incumbent Fofi Gennimata had announced her bid for re-election in September of 2020 and the first politician to challenge the incumbent was Andreas Loverdos, when he announced his candidacy in January of 2021. Nikos Androulakis, an MEP and the runner up of the last leadership race, followed with his candidacy in July. Finally Haris Kastanidis, an MP and former cabinet member announced he would run in September of 2021.

Gennimata’s death

Unexpectedly, on October 12, Gennimata announced her withdrawal from the leadership race due to health reasons and just a few days later on October 25 she died in the hospital at the age of 56. Gennimata had been previously diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer—a disease she had been fighting and living with for years and that had struck both her parents. Her mother Kakia Vergou died at the age of 54 from breast cancer and her father Georgios Gennimatas had died of lung cancer also at the age of 54.4 Georgios Gennimatas had been a founding and prominent member of PASOK, being a perennial MP and cabinet member. He has also been credited as the person who established the country’s National Health Service.

While her death brought a public wave of interest and support towards the party, the announcement of her withdrawal had already turned the party upside down and basically made the election up for grabs. 

New candidates, familiar faces

Vassilios Kegeroglou, a PASOK MP since 2004 and former Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Security, Pavlos Geroulanos a former Minister of Culture and Tourism, Pavlos Christidis, KINAL’s spokesperson, all announced their candidacies within the next few days. Followed by former Prime Minister George Papandreou’s decision to run. While his camp had hoped that a lot of the candidates would withdraw their candidacies and support him, only Kegeroglou ended up doing so.

Papandreou’s candidacy gave even more publicity to the race. A former PM that was forced to resign ten years prior was attempting to make a comeback with significant implications on the party’s identity, as he would wish to turn the party significantly to the left.

First round

The first round took place on December fifth amid a general climate of hope and discussions of rebranding back to PASOK’s name and symbols that have recently been met with nostalgia. KINAL was therefore rising in the polls reaching some of their best polling results since the party’s creation.

The expectation was that Androulakis, Papandreou and Loverdos would fight for the first two spots, although a lot of the polling done for the leadership contest had been criticised as biased in favour of Loverdos.

That expectation proved correct with Androulakis and Papandreou claiming the first two spots and moving on to the run-off. Androulakis received 36.9% of the vote performing extremely well in his home region of Crete. Papandreou performed well in his home region of Western Greece as well and received 28% of the vote nationally, closely followed by Loverdos’ 26%.

Second round

The Papandreou camp seemed to be caught off guard by the result and Androulakis’ lead. It would be accurate to say that Papandreou started negative campaigning in the following days. And while that might have been working in the beginning, when the campaign brought up accusations of voter interference, people seemed to be dismayed by it. As expected Loverdos supported Androulakis and asked his supporters to vote for him in the second round.

The political climate and polling pointed to an Androulakis win with most polls showing Androulakis at around 56%. And the actual result was even more dominant with Androulakis receiving 68% of the vote to Papandreou’s 32%.

Papandreou Dynasty

This loss might be perceived as the final nail in the coffin of the Papandreou Dynasty. The family has been one of the major political families of Greece for almost a century and has given Greece three generations of Prime Ministers. In fact when George Papandreou failed to enter parliament in 2015, it was the first time since 1923 that at least one member of the Papandreou family wasn’t in Parliament.

That being said, Papandreou is currently one of the 22 MPs of KINAL, president of one of its constituent party KIDISO and president of the Socialist International. Also he seems to be one of the prominent centre-left figures who seems open to negotiate with SYRIZA (LEFT) (leaving aside the fierce critique the left-wing party had for him during his 2009-2011 term as Prime Minister).

Fun fact: If Nikos Androulakis resigns from the European Parliament, either to focus on his party role or to join the national parliament once national elections take place, the alternate MEP that will take his place is none other than Nikos Papandreou, George Papandreou’s brother.

Where do we go from here?

Grace period and rally around the flag effect notwithstanding, Greek politics have been extremely still and stable ever since ND won the 2019 elections. In part because the choice for leader of KINAL was very much a choice of party identity with implications on the potential coalitions and coöperations.

The result seems very positive for KINAL so far. First polls conducted with Nikos Androulakis as the party leader show the rise of the party—even reaching consecutive all time record highs with 13.5% in a Kapa Research poll, 16.7% in an MRB poll and 17.7% in a Marc poll.

This rise coupled with the renewed interest for the party and the potential rebranding and embrace of PASOK’s name and symbols make it easy for one to talk of ‘reverse pasokification’, de-pasokification or kinalification. However, that might still be a long way away and it’s definitely too soon for such a claim with the current goal of the party seeming to be to first stabilise in the double digits. That being said, given that ND is expected to win in the next elections as well, they could very well prove to be seen as a contest between SYRIZA and KINAL for which party will be the main party left of centre.

What also can be said about KINAL at this point is that, with Androulakis as the new leader, it seems that it can position itself as a sort of a kingmaker in Greek politics. The centre-left party can govern with ND, govern with SYRIZA, govern with both or not govern at all. At the same time it is clear that SYRIZA might be unable to govern without KINAL’s support, giving the S&D-affiliated party more negotiating cards than ever before.

More importantly, whether Androulakis’ election bears fruit for KINAL or not, the fact that this leadership race has now taken place was a necessary threshold for any party developments to begin. The new party system that will be established after the 2023 elections has now finally started to take form.