The creation of a committee to investigate 10 Greek politicians in connection with the Novartis bribery allegations is widely seen as nothing other than a risky, for the economy’s stability, attempt by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to polarize the political climate, change the agenda of the public debate and shoot the ball into the opposition’s court.
Facing a slew of contentious decisions in coming months, the leftist-led government will have to cross a number of hurdles if it is to serve a full term in office and not call early elections.
First among these are the ongoing negotiations in the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Tellingly, the mass demonstration in central Athens earlier in the month against a compromise solution – just a day before the Novartis case broke – highlighted the political losses the government stands to incur if it is seen giving away the term “Macedonia” to Skopje.
The next few weeks will also prove decisive as to whether the government’s primary surplus targets are realistic or if the reduction of the tax threshold will be expedited.
Meanwhile, as talks to lighten Greece’s debt burden move ahead, it will become increasingly clear that Tsipras’s narrative of a “clean exit” from the bailout program in August is untenable, as the country will remain under close supervision and tied by commitments it has to honor in the coming years.
In addition, the government’s much-touted plan to access international markets without a precautionary credit line is being openly disputed by the European Central Bank and the markets themselves – reflected in the rising yields on Greek bonds.
Analysts also note that apart from the bid to change the public debate, Tsipras is also using the Novartis case to deliver a blow to main opposition party New Democracy and the center-left Movement for Change coalition.
Former leaders of both parties, Antonis Samaras and Evangelos Venizelos, have been implicated in the affair, albeit on shaky grounds as the case against all 10 politicians relies only on the testimony of three anonymous witnesses.
Hoping to reap partisan dividends, the government is expected to push the narrative that ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis and socialist PASOK leader Fofi Gennimata are two sides of the same coin as both made it abundantly clear in Parliament last week that they will fully support the politicians involved in the case.