Mitsotakis checkmates Syriza with new presidential candidate

Mitsotakis checkmates Syriza with new presidential candidate

Political communication, political marketing, political PR; all these terms have now entered the world of politics and have increasingly become an integral part of today’s political discourse.

A good example of what a clever communication strategy can achieve, we experienced last week by the communication team of the Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The issue was the election of the next president of the state coming up in a few weeks
With the five year term of the current President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, coming to an end in February, most political parties had already named their favorite choice for the highest yet largely ceremonial position in the Greek political hierarchy.

It was in 2015, when Prokopis Pavlopoulos, a professor of Constitutional Law, a former politician and key minister of the center-right party of New Democracy-now in power-, was nominated by the leftist Syriza -then the government in power with its coalition partner ANEL, as their choice for the 7th President of the country.

It was a surprise move as Pavlopoulos was one of the key political figures of the conservative camp, having taken up several ministerial portfolios under New Democracy government and had associated his career with a long period of serving as a legal advisor to the founder of the party, Konstantinos Karamanlis, in the late 70s.

The move by a leftist party-first time in power- to propose a conservative president was seen as a clever tactical move, a message that Alexis Tsipras, the first leftist prime minister, was seeking social unity and a broad political front during the hard times of Greece, deep in economic crisis. Pavlopoulos was elected with a broad majority which included not only the votes of Syriza and ANEL but also his own party, New Democracy. The voting took place on the 18th of February 2015, and the new President was elected in the first round.

Pavlopoulos performed his duties in a proper manner and never lost the chance to criticize Turkey for “not respecting the international law”. However, he visited Turkey as he wanted to “keep the doors of communication open”.

During the general elections in Greece last July, the New Democracy party under Mitsotakis managed a sweeping victory over Alexis Tsipras. Although Syriza managed to keep almost 32% of the votes, many thought, that the defeat was too much of a blow for the party to regain its former popularity.

Many were looking forward to the next round of confrontation between the two, which was expected to come with the choice of candidates for the presidency.

Syriza tried their old trick by proposing Pavlopoulos for a second term. Kyriakos Mitsotakis chose not to reveal his choice for the new president although pro-government journalists had already leaked the information that it was going to be a woman. But the uncertainty lasted for some time, with various names of possible women candidates thrown on the table to be turned down by the opposition one by one

Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s rise to power owes a lot to an extremely successful communication management team who succeeded in attracting voters by clever persuasion tricks and perfect timing at every step of the election campaign. And once in government, they were able to push to the background many policy mistakes and mistaken decisions by well-planned new moves which showed the government under the positive sight.

Clever management to dampen the growing criticism against the government’s policies on economy and refugees was the timing to bring in the issue of the next president of Greece. Selecting an earlier time than previously announced, Mitsotakis appeared last Wednesday on Greek TV live and declared his choice for the person for the next president of the state.

It was Aikaterini Sakkelaropoulou, a sixty-four-year-old judge and the first female president of the Greek Council of State. Now she may be the first woman president of the Hellenic republic

The announcement changed the agenda and gave extra points to the government. Sakkelaropoulou was not considered to be a supporter of New Democracy; she was seen as belonging to the camp of the center-leftists. She was a person that few would have objected to. But Sakkelaropoulou, besides being a known judge involved in major legal cases, a person with particular interest on environmental issues, a modern woman, she had a particular characteristic which proved particularly useful to the communication advisors of the new prime minister. She was a person that Alexis Tsipras and several leading members had considered among the candidates to propose as president, back in 2015!

As it turned out, most parties, including a reluctant Syriza, expressed their support for the choice. It was a victory for Mitsotakis who is trying to enhance his own profile as prime-minister. He has a long way to go as he will have to find brand new ways to solve the problems with Turkey where a lot more is needed than clever communication marketing.