With the summer recess coming to a close, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is reportedly anxiously examining “all options on the table” in a bid to bounce back from a difficult year that saw his government’s popularity slide.
Aides close to Tsipras are reportedly pushing him to move ahead with cabinet changes even before the start of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) in September, as it is becoming increasingly obvious that the government has displayed a lack of cohesion and several ministers appear to be running out of steam.
But Tsipras will have little leeway to bring radical changes to his cabinet due to the power politics at play, and the apparent dearth of capable candidates within ruling SYRIZA’s parliamentary group.
Tsipras’s main objective is to weather the storm that has hit his government – due to the implementation of highly unpopular tax hikes and spending cuts – and buy political time until elections in 2019, by which time Greece’s bailout will be in the past.
The leftist leader has reportedly insisted to senior officials that if the country frees itself from the bailout memorandums, and the economy shows steady growth by 2019, then the electorate may see things differently.
With this is mind, the government’s main concern now is to polish its tarnished leftist credentials by ensuring that the benefits of growth are fairly distributed and the interests of civil servants – a traditional base of SYRIZA support – will be safeguarded.
However, Tsipras has asked government officials to also be prepared for the possibility of early elections in case everything goes awry. His main fear is that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will ask – in exchange for joining the Greek program – for yet tougher measures within the framework of the third review of the country’s third bailout. But more austerity may be the straw that final breaks the government’s back in terms of its legitimacy with its base.
Although several government officials have pushed for the IMF’s non-participation in the Greek program, Athens is well aware that it will get very little with regard to its key demand of debt relief without the input of the Washington-based Fund. The government is also wary of not meeting its fiscal targets in 2018, which could lead to further pension cuts and tax hikes.