The leader of one of the major socialist parties in Greece has died of cancer just before her 57th birthday, leaving a void to be filled in the fragmented Greek political scene. Fotini Gennimata led the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, which combined with several other leftist parties in 2017 to create a new alliance of center-left parties. Gennimata had stepped down shortly before her death and the party has plans to elect a new leader in December.
Socialist moderates lose their leader
Fotini Gennimata led one of the main opposition factions in the Hellenic Parliament. The current Prime Minister of Greece is Kyriakos Mitsotakis of New Democracy, a center-right party.
Gennimata was the daughter of a prominent socialist politician and was involved in socialist politics from a young age. The Panhellenic Socialist Movement made up, along with New Democracy, half of the two party system which governed Greece.
This all changed in 2015, when the Coalition of the Radical Left, also known as Syriza, came to power under Alexis Tsipras as a result of the Greek debt crisis.
Gennimata and the Panhellenic Socialist Movement subsequently regrouped with other center-left parties in the Movement for Change alliance.
Tsipras was defeated in the 2019 elections, which brought New Democracy under Mitsotakis back into power, a revival for one of the former leading parties.
For Gennimata and her faction recovery was not as easy. The center-left had been outflanked by the radical left and the Movement for Change has been unable to return to its previous dominant position.
A very messy political scene
New Democracy was more able to garner support from factions on the Greek right, including the ultranationalist Golden Dawn.
Mitsotakis is, like Gennimata, a member of a leading family in Greek politics. He has declared a day of national mourning in response to her death.
The sympathy for his former socialist rival perhaps illustrates the extent to which the more established parties in Greece are longing for the days when they competed principally with each other.
Syriza lost a great deal of ground in its 2019 defeat and Golden Dawn voters have widely returned to New Democracy but the political landscape in Greece remains intensely fragmented and bitterly divided.
The debt crisis and the migrant crisis have both contributed to radicalization in Greek politics and the Movement for Change shows no sign of winning the left back from Syriza.
The death of Gennimata may be the end for the moderate socialist factions in Greece, which have struggled to keep voters away from their more radical opponents.