The government appeared to engage in damage control after failing late Thursday to muster the 200 votes in Parliament it needed to immediately – rather than after the next election – scrap the existing enhanced proportional representation system, which gives the winning party a bonus of 50 seats in the 300-seat House.
Instead, MPs approved the government’s proposed changes by a simple majority of 179 votes, meaning that 17-year-olds will be able to vote in the next general elections.
“We are not stressing over this at all because we’re going to win the next elections anyway, so keeping the existing electoral system is in our favor,” a source close to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday, referring to criticism from opposition parties that the only reason the leftist-led coalition was pushing for a change is because it’s lagging behind New Democracy in the polls and wanted to prevent the conservative party from forming a government if it were to win the next elections.
However, reforming the electoral law has been a stated objective of the ruling SYRIZA party – and a long-standing demand of the left side of the country’s political spectrum – ever since it was in opposition.
Failure to do so now is seen by Tsipras’s opponents, within and without the party, as a resounding defeat.
But, according to senior aides, rather than going on the defensive, the government is determined to embark on a campaign to expose the parties of the Left by highlighting the “betrayal” of their fundamental principles by refusing to back in full the government’s electoral reform changes.
“The parties of the center-Left chose to be the tail of [conservative leader Kyriakos] Mitsotakis,” one aide said, blaming parties like socialist PASOK of heeding ND’s call not to back simple proportional representation as it would cause political instability.
Sources close to Tsipras say his party will continue its campaign against center-left parties in the coming months as it strives to shed its radical label and entrench itself as the main pillar of that part of the political spectrum.
Meanwhile, Tsipras is preparing to announce on Monday the government’s proposal for a review of the Greek Constitution, another measure it had pledged in his pre-election campaigns.