The parliamentary debate over a controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia which was postponed on Wednesday for Monday is set to take place amid heightened tension between the government and opposition conservatives over the role of Defense Minister and junior coalition party leader Panos Kammenos.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras set the stage on Wednesday for an explosive House debate expressing the hope that New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis will have “the political courage” to show up and back up all the “ungrounded claims made by New Democracy and large swaths of the media” with regard to the deal and Kammenos’s role.
The debate, which was scheduled for Thursday, was postponed after a request by Tsipras, who will visit Paris.
However, New Democracy said Tsipras was showing signs of panic by delaying the discussion.
“The panic that has gripped Mr Kammenos appears to have been transmitted to Mr Tsipras, who has remained oddly quiet for the past 17 days in regard to the scandal in which his ruling partner is implicated,” the conservative party said in an announcement on Wednesday.
However, sources said Wednesday that Tsipras wants to be present for Kammenos’s response to accusations from the opposition that the deal with Saudi Arabia for missiles and bombs was not conducted transparently.
In addition, the government reportedly reckons that, due to the gravity of the accusations, it is incumbent on Tsipras to be at the debate so as to fend off criticism that he is avoiding the issue.
Government officials said that, prior to the postponement of Thursday's discussion, New Democracy was trying to exploit Tsipras’s absence from the debate to push the narrative that he “escaped” in order to avoid a showdown in Parliament.
For his part, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos accused New Democracy of orchestrating a “campaign of misinformation” as Tsipras has made it clear that he will show up on Monday firing on all cylinders while having already offered Kammenos his full backing, saying that the accusations hurled against him are “groundless.”
His support for Kammenos is also viewed as reciprocation for the backing his Independent Greeks party has given to legislation pushed by ruling SYRIZA in Parliament.