German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Athens on Thursday takes place at what is seen as a pivotal time for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as he grapples with the threat of a break-up of his coalition once the name deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is ratified by the neighboring country’s parliament – most likely by Wednesday.
Referring to the visit, German government spokeswoman Martina Fietz said on Friday that she does not know if the name deal will be discussed, but stressed that Berlin “welcomes the agreement and continues to hope that this decades-long dispute will be resolved.”
According to diplomatic sources, Merkel chose to visit Athens in order to give support to Tsipras ahead of the deal’s ratification by Greek Parliament and to send a message that the Greek economy is on the road to recovery, vindicating German policies during the financial crisis.
Meanwhile, as the debate continues over what would happen if junior partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) leaves the coalition over the name deal, spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said last week that the government may seek a “vote of tolerance,” which would keep it in power as long as it secures the support of 120 lawmakers. The government also appears confident of securing the 151 parliamentary votes needed to ratify the deal.
However, observers say that a minority government like this would only raise objections over its legitimacy by the opposition, with the possibility of snap elections at any given time. This volatility could also be exacerbated by acrimony stemming from the government’s effort to revise the constitution and the outcome of negotiations with religious leaders over the future of church-state relations.
According to analysts, snap elections in March is the least favored scenario by the government as they will come shortly after the name deal is ratified, which is expected to take a significant toll on the Tsipras administration. A more likely scenario is for polls to take place in May – coinciding with local and European elections – which, the government hopes, is enough time for its handouts to kick in.