Despite the return of speculation about early elections due to the ongoing friction within the ruling coalition, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appears intent on sticking to his plan of either seeing out his government’s four-year term in office or heading to the polls in May, to coincide with local and European elections.
According to reports, Tsipras will try to dispel the toxic political atmosphere – fueled by the jailing last week of former Socialist defense minister Yiannos Papantoniou and the recent spat between Defense Minister Panos Kammenos (who is also leader of junior coalition partner Independent Greeks) and former foreign minister Nikos Kotzias – by implementing the relief measures he announced at the Thessaloniki International Fair in September in eight separate parliamentary votes in November.
The premier’s aides insist that at least three months will be needed before citizens feel the positive impact of the measures. With this in mind, calling early elections before the measures sink in is not an option for the government.
Coalition partner Kammenos appears to be on the same page. He has said his party will leave the coalition when the controversial Macedonia name deal, which he vehemently opposes, goes to Parliament in March.
To ensure that the coalition doesn’t break up earlier, an informal agreement has been struck between Athens and the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia so that the name deal does not go to the Greek Parliament for ratification before March – even though the deadlines outlined in the deal stipulate that FYROM must ratify it by mid-January at the latest.
Tsipras, however, is faced with an uphill battle given that Greece’s creditors have disputed whether the government has the financial leeway to implement the relief measures he announced in September.
Furthermore, the premier will also have to cope with a censure motion over the name deal that opposition New Democracy plans to bring against the government in January.
In this case, Tsipras’s bid to keep the coalition intact will be put to the test as ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is expected to turn the debate into a vote of confidence in the government.