New round of measures expected as PM seeks to limit SYRIZA losses


Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has entered a critical two-month period which will determine whether he will call snap elections in May or attempt to complete his beleaguered government’s four-year term in October.

The government has been tested in recent weeks after effectively losing its majority in Parliament following the departure of junior coalition party leader Panos Kammenos, who continues a liability for Tsipras.

In spite of a slew of handouts distributed over the past few months, Tsipras’s leftist SYRIZA continues to lag conservative New Democracy in opinion polls. The prime minister is expected to try to shrink that difference with some additional social measures, as well as initiatives such as a much-vaunted review of the Constitution. The government is also counting on prosecutors probing the Novartis bribery scandal to bring charges against key political rivals of SYRIZA over the coming weeks.

Tsipras’s effort to reverse the climate in SYRIZA’s favor, ahead of European and local authority elections scheduled for May, is expected to focus on five key points: bolstering banks so that they can protect the primary residences of overindebted citizens and issue business loans; offering payment plans to self-employed professionals with debts to the state; offering rent subsidies to 30,000 households; proceeding with a review of the Constitution; and accelerating the lagging Novartis investigation.

If, by the end of March, Tsipras deems that the losses SYRIZA is likely to face in the May elections are not too heavy, he will likely seek to complete the government’s term in the fall. If not, he is likely to call early elections, probably on May 19, the week before the European and local polls.

In the meantime, the government is seeking to appease Kammenos, fearing his threat of “war.”

On Monday, a parliamentary committee is expected to discuss planned changes to House regulations that would allow the junior partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) to keep its parliamentary group, even though it risks falling below the minimum of five MPs required.

Parliament speaker Nikos Voutsis last week came under fire by ND for asking ANEL MP Thanassis Papachristopoulos to put off his planned resignation until after a vote scheduled for this Thursday on the NATO accession protocol for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Accusing Voutsis of “mediating” between the two former coalition partners, ND did not rule out the possibility of lodging a censure motion against the House speaker.