Political tsunami looms
The Novartis case, the negotiations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Greek bailout program are expected cast a shadow over developments in the coming weeks that could lead to early elections.
The Novartis case came to the fore as the leftist-led government was reeling under pressure stemming from the reactions against a compromise in the name dispute with FYROM which culminated with a mass demonstration in Athens earlier this month.
Analysts say the Novartis case was brought to the fore in order to divert the public’s attention from the name dispute, but this appears to have backfired as the case, which refers to the bribery of two former premiers and eight former ministers, has been built on the testimonies of three protected witnesses, who have so far failed to produce evidence proving their allegations.
However, given that leading government officials have described the affair as a “colossal scandal,” Premier Alexis Tsipras had no choice but to call for a parliamentary committee to investigate the allegations, even though it is built, at least so far, on flimsy premises. Furthermore those named in the affair – including former conservative PM Antonis Samaras, former PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos – will have the full backing of New Democracy and PASOK.
But, regardless of the outcome, it is widely believed that Tsipras may call for early elections as the allegations hanging over the heads of his rivals – even if disproven – could serve him well.
Moreover, despite the optimism cultivated by the government over the FYROM dispute, the signs are not good. The talks appear to be heading for stalemate as Skopje has made demands that Athens cannot accept – such as the recognition of a “Macedonian” language and identity. This could lead to the collapse of talks. But even in the case there is an agreement, SYRIZA may find itself isolated when it comes to a Parliament vote.
Another factor that may prompt Tsipras to call for early elections is that, despite talk of a clean exit from the bailout in August 2018, EU officials have challenged the narrative, saying the country will still need to be monitored