New Democracy (ND). Now the lead party in the government with its former nemesis PASOK, ND remains Greece’s predominant centre-right party.
ND was launched by transition PM Konstantine Karamanlis. Karamanlis had been a former PM for the National Radical Union, Greece’s pre-1967 conservative party. Karamanlis had gone into self-imposed exile in the mid-60s and was unconnected to the military junta which ruled Greece after 1967. The Junta selected him to oversee the return to democracy under a national unity government and he won the first democratic elections in Greece since the coup in 1974 with his new party, New Democracy, winning 54.4% of the vote.
New Democracy was designed to represent a more progressive, reformist centre-right compared to what had preceded it and ND initially declared itself to be a ‘radical liberal’ party and took on some of the themes of Venizelist movement which had represented the liberal centre in Greece prior to 1967.The party ruled until 1981 when it became the opposition to PASOK.
The party briefly ruled again, first at the head of unstable coalition governments between 1989 and 1990 (due to PASOK toying with the electoral law before the forthcoming ND win) and then until 1993 as a single party majority. Between 2004 and 2009 ND ruled again, this time under Kostas Karamanlis, nephew of the party’s founder. Karamanlis led a government that was generally regarded as wilfully inept in handling the increasingly poorly performing Greek economy. The party won a second term in 2007 only by the skin of its teeth – winning only 151 of the 300 seats in parliament.
Like PASOK, ND saw its support crumble as the financial crisis became clearer. Like PASOK, increasing numbers of MPs left the party group and sat either as independents or in new tiny party formations.
However, the party was able to hold onto its support better than PASOK, and in the first election of 2012 achieved the rather pyrrhic victory of ‘winning’ in a highly fragmented field, taking just 18.9% of the vote. In the second election that year it was able to increase that to 29.7%, enough that it was able to form a government with PASOK. Nonetheless, the ND has continued to see defections – it has lost 4 MPs since 2012.
While New Democracy started off claiming to be a liberal party, in reality it is a catch-all party for the Greek centre-right, with conservative, liberal and Christian democratic factions, and it is now more likely to view itself as a conservative party. Like PASOK it also has a penchant for clientalism.
The party has tended to be more pro-European than PASOK, though in opposition it adopted a somewhat more nationalist line over austerity.
ND is a member of the European People’s Party. New Democracy is a relatively disloyal member of the group, voting with the EPP only 92.9% of the time.