A tense debate between political leaders in Parliament Tuesday was expected to peak on Wednesday night ahead of a critical vote of confidence in the government which Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to marginally win despite the political upheaval that followed the departure of his junior coalition partner, Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos, on Sunday.
The clash between Tsipras and conservative opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis was particularly vehement and gave a taste of campaigning for elections this year as speculation about possible snap polls continues.
Tsipras asked MPs to vote according to their consciences both in Wednesday's confidence vote and in a vote on the Prespes name deal which is expected to follow soon, declaring that “democracy will win.”
Mitsotakis referred to a “ragbag government” and accused Tsipras of putting on a “wretched show” to ensure his government’s survival and pass the “harmful” Prespes deal. He also accused the government of offering incentives to non-SYRIZA MPs in exchange for their support in the vote of confidence.
He and Tsipras also clashed over the premier’s appointment of Greece’s armed forces commander Evangelos Apostolakis as defense minister, replacing Kammenos. Mitsotakis remarked that it was the first time since Greece’s military dictatorship that an active military chief had been appointed minister.
The government looked as if it had secured the 151 seats it needs to win Wednesday's confidence vote. In addition to the backing of 145 SYRIZA MPs and independent Katerina Papacosta, who is deputy citizens’ protection minister, it appeared to have the support of four ANEL MPs, as well as centrist To Potami MP Spyros Danellis.
Danellis’s announcement on Tuesday that he would support the government in the confidence vote prompted Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis to eject him from the party and also raised questions about what stance the party would hold in a vote on the Prespes deal.
Potami MP Giorgos Mavrotas suggested that the government was using the Prespes deal to extract support for the confidence vote.
“Our view of the Prespes deal has not changed. What has changed is the political context in which it comes [to Parliament],” Mavrotas said.
A Potami source was more explicit, noting that although the party’s initially positive view of the Prespes deal was a matter of principle, “the cynicism” with which Tsipras seeks out different combinations of MPs to support different votes and extend his stay in power should not be overlooked.
Theodorakis is under pressure from two of his MPs – Giorgos Amyras and Grigoris Psarianos – who oppose the Prespes deal and are calling for a “present” vote at the least which would not appear to offer support to the government but also most likely not prevent the approval of the pact.
It was considered likely that the timing of the vote on the Prespes deal will be announced soon after the outcome of the confidence vote.