There are fears that last week’s approval of the Prespes deal could turn out to be something of a Pyrrhic victory for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as the political polarization fueled by the contentious accord peaks in the countdown to elections and the behavior of his sidelined coalition partner remains unpredictable.
Tsipras had been counting on a clutch of handouts over the past couple of months, including social benefits and retroactive payments for pension cuts, to boost the fortunes of his leftist SYRIZA party against conservative New Democracy. However, it appears that the positive impact of the social measures which the premier announced at the end of last year has worn off over the past few weeks during the debate of the Prespes deal. Opinion polls continue to show that at least six in 10 Greeks oppose the accord and indicate that ND is retaining a significant lead over SYRIZA.
Another potential problem for Tsipras is the handful of independent MPs who helped him pass the Prespes deal into law following the resignation of his junior coalition partner leader Panos Kammenos earlier this month. As he is now leading what is essentially a minority government, Tsipras remains dependent on these MPs to pass legislation. And, sources suggest, the lawmakers in question are quite likely to expect to be put on SYRIZA’s ticket ahead of elections – a move that would reinforce the arguments of those who claimed that the independent MPs received promises in exchange for their support for the Prespes deal.
There are also lingering concerns about some technical details that remain to be finalized following the ratification of the Prespes accord – notably the approval of a so-called NATO accession protocol. Although these moves are basically a formality, there is a fear that they will drag out the process for the govenment, which is keen to close the door on a politically and socially divisive issue.
Advisers close to Tsipras are also concerned about the repercussions of the behavior of estranged Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Kammenos. The former defense minister has already made waves by suggesting that the premier’s legal adviser Vassiliki Thanou, a former Supreme Court judge, tried to steer the course of certain investigations in the government’s favor, prompting opposition parties to call for an investigation into the claims.
With Kammenos’s ANEL polling close to 1 percent, significantly below the 3 percent threshold to enter Parliament, he is expected to go to great lengths in the fight for his political survival.
In a bid to underline his divorce from Kammenos and signal his government’s overture to the center-left of the political spectrum before elections, Tsipras is expected to carry out a light reshuffle in due course – probably focusing on deputy ministers.
Although Tsipras has insisted that his government will complete its four-year term in October, many analysts believe his minority administration will not last that long and that he will be forced to call snap polls.