PM turnaround after uproar


Seeking to dispel accusations that the government was colluding with Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis to change House regulations in order to salvage the Independent Greeks (ANEL) parliamentary group, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sent him a letter Monday asking him not to alter “even a punctuation mark.”

In his letter, Tsipras said he was “surprised” to see that an initiative dictated by “democratic sensitivities” was subjected to “unbelievable hostility” and suggestions by the opposition and several media outlets that he was being strong-armed by ANEL.

“I have never been coerced by anyone, ever, and as I do not want to allow anyone to exploit my democratic sensitivities in order to slander me, I ask you to take no initiative to change the existing regulations, not even a punctuation mark.” Any “ambiguities” in existing regulations should be put before Parliament’s committee of experts, he said.

The government said last week that it wanted an amendment to the regulation dictating that the minimum of five MPs in any parliamentary group must have all entered Parliament with the same party, which would allow ANEL to keep its group.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee that convened Monday to discuss the said regulation deferred the issue to the House’s Scientific Council.

The leader of the former junior coalition partner, Panos Kammenos, had warned last month that he would declare “war” on the government if his party could not keep its parliamentary group.

According to analysts, Tsipras’s letter was prompted by his concern that he would be viewed as caving in to Kammenos’s threats. The prime minister and his aides reportedly felt the symbolic cost of being seen bowing to coercion was much higher than that of being at the receiving end of Kammenos’s criticism.

Tsipras was also reportedly influenced by the indignant reactions within the government and his SYRIZA party base to Kammenos’s threats.

Meanwhile, the six MPs that backed the government in the recent censure motion – independents Elena Kountoura, Vasilios Kokkalis, Katerina Papacosta, Spyros Danellis and ANEL MPs Costas Zouraris and Thanasis Papachristopoulos – sent letters to the parliamentary speaker to inform him that, from now on, their vote on any bill that comes to Parliament should be added to that of SYRIZA’s 145 MPs.