What we experience in Europe is the emergence of smaller parties. Some of them extremist right or left-wing others with a core topic but without a homogenous ideological direction. However, generally speaking ideology plays an important role for smaller parties in order to establish themselves in the political landscape.
That makes it even more surprising that Alexis Tsipras, the newly elected Prime Minister of Greece, announced the formation of a coalition between the Coalition of the Radical Left SYRIZA and the Independent Greeks, a right-wing nationalistic party with a variety of xenophobic policies. How can it be that a former militant Communist like Tsipras unites himself with a right-wing party? Are the times of reliable ideologies and convictions over?
Another example: In the German region I was born the governing coalition, formed by the Conservatives and the Greens, is in office for one and a half years now. Current observations on the behaviour of the Greens in the parliament show, that criticism against the xenophobic behaviour of one particular Conservative parliamentarian which has been on the daily agenda over the last years of thankless opposition seem to be forgotten. Just because the Greens now are officially working together with the Conservatives, they feel obliged not to criticise xenophobic behaviour of individual parliamentarians of this party.
These two examples state a clear message: ideology actually does not matter in the daily business of power. It is mainly masquerade to win some votes of the alleged target group. This means we cannot rely on ideology anymore, but must hope that the demands for which we voted for one particular party will be remembered after the ruling coalition is made and are not sacrificed for the sake of power. So clear – so negative.
But the development nevertheless could also mean that excessive stubbornness and ideological confrontations are a matter of the past. And that constructive cooperation, the focus on and realization of shared objectives will lead to successful governance.
However I still believe the turn away from ideology and moving towards power options brings a loss of credibility and increasing insecurity for the voter. Furthermore it bears a big danger for the smaller parties with a high amount of voters that are rather ideologically committed and less opportunistic. They are likely to be frustrated when their “own” party coalitions with the ideological “arch enemy”.
The only chance the smaller party has to improve its stand, is to convince through governing and therefore attracting rather less-ideologically committed voter groups. But this again might be relatively difficult since they are the small partners of often much stronger bigger coalition parties and have a hard time representing their shares in the success of governing.
However for us voters that means that the short-term goals increase in importance while general ideology decreases in relevance for government coalitions as we can see in Greece nowadays.