Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras admitted in an interview on Tuesday night that he does not believe in the agreement he struck with the country’s lenders but urged his MPs to back it in Parliament on Wednesday as it is the best prospect of bringing about a recovery.
In an interview with public broadcaster ERT, Tsipras admitted that mistakes had been made during negotiations over the last six months and said he takes “full responsibility” for that. However, he also said that it was clear some of Greece’s partners had a plan to push the country out of the eurozone.
Tsipras said he tried to fight against that during negotiations in Brussels on Sunday, which he described as a “bad night” for Greece and Europe. The prime minister said that although he disagreed with the prior actions demanded of Greece, he believes the length of the new program (three years) and the funding available (up to 86 billion euros) will help Greece’s recovery.
The first of those prior actions is due to be voted on in Parliament on Wednesday. Tsipras encouraged his MPs to back the measures, asking them to vote according to their conscience. He said he did not have any plans to remove rebel Parliament Speaker Zoe Constantopoulou from her post or to expel dissenting MPs from his party, indicating that he will look to continue as head of a minority government if the coalition loses its majority.
He insisted that his relationship with coalition partner and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who indicated on Tuesday that he might oppose some measures, remains excellent.
A long-vaunted government reshuffle, or a broader overhaul of the ruling coalition, is not expected to be announced until after the vote as the outcome will influence Tsipras’s decisions on how to move forward.
Speculation peaked on Tuesday about the possible outcome of the vote, which is expected to begin at midnight after several hours of debate. There are fears about mass defections following last Saturday’s vote on Greece’s latest proposal to lenders in which 17 SYRIZA MPs either broke ranks with the government or were absent while another 15 who supported the bill indicated they would not necessarily back future legislation on the measures.
High-ranking government officials indicated on Tuesday that if the number of MPs who break from the government’s line is less than 30, Tsipras is likely to keep his SYRIZA coalition with the right-wing Independent Greeks and proceed with a wide-ranging reshuffle.
If the number of lawmakers who defect is larger than 40, then the premier is likely to look toward forming a unity government as his government’s representation in the 300-seat Parliament will have shrunk to under 121, the minimum foreseen by the Constitution for a minority government, and will not be unable to continue in power; in this case, the premier would be a senior judicial official, mostly likely Supreme Court President Vasiliki Thanou.
In the event that the number of defections are deemed manageable and he proceeds to a reshuffle, the ministers expected to be ejected include Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis and Alternate Social Security Minister Dimitris Stratoulis, who voted present last Saturday, and Alternate Finance Minister Nadia Valavani, who indicated on Tuesday that she will step down.