Antonis Samaras, head of Greece's main opposition party, New Democracy
s conservative leader Antonis Samaras enters the lecture hall in the Aristotelion university of Thessaloniki, students who've have working themselves up into a frenzy fill the room with the kind of enthusiasm and passion that Greeks usually reserve for the victory of their favourite soccer team. However, beyond the yells and chants the reality of the situation is the the country's main opposition party is in crisis, unable to rid itself of accusations that it, along with the ruling left wing PASOK party has helped bring the nation to its knees through a toxic mix of incompetent governance, corruption and deceit.
Following his victory last year Samaras inherited from his predecessor, prime minister Konstantinos Karamanlis a party riddled with dissatisfation and dissent which can barely garner 20% in opinion polls with much of its policy platform usurped by Giorgos Papandreou's PASOk which has implemented a reform policy that includes a massive privatisation program, public spending cuts and a sharp reduction in the size of Greek state.
However, New Democracy is on the horns of a dilemma, torn between endorsing an austerity package which includes many of the policies it had tried to implement when in power while not being associated with a series of deeply unpopular policies which are opposed by the majority of the electorate.
Samaras's position has not been helped by the divisive leadership battle which led to the defection of New Democracy heavy weight (and daughter of party founder Constantinos Bakoyianni) who her formed Democratic Alliance (Dimokratiki Symmaxia) party in the wake of a failed leadership bid.
The drop in support for New Democracy is part of a deeper problem of credibility which the Greek political system is facing. In the wake of a seemingly endless list of bribery scandals and flagrant abuses of office many Greeks are turning their backs on the existing parties which seem unwilling or unable to fight corruption within their own ranks.