NEWS

Political upheaval fuels election speculation

political-upheaval-fuels-election-speculation

Despite the government’s insistence that general elections will take place as scheduled in October, the prospect of snap polls appears to be growing amid continuing political upheaval.

On the one hand the government appears to have effectively bolstered its majority following a decision by six MPs – four independents and two Independent Greeks (ANEL) lawmakers – to inform Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis that their votes on bills coming to Parliament should henceforth be added to those of leftist SYRIZA’s 145 MPs.

On the other hand, the unpredictability of ANEL leader and estranged junior coalition partner Panos Kammenos puts the government in a difficult position.

Last week, Kammenos threatened “war” if his parliamentary group is demolished. This week, he lowered his tone, describing Tsipras as “charismatic” in an interview with Open TV.

The expected resignation of Independent Greeks MP Thanasis Papachristopoulos in the coming days is certain to trigger developments.

Originally planned for last week, the MP put off his departure at the request of Voutsis, who proposed that a vote on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s NATO accession protocol be first completed.

Voutsis’s move prompted the opposition to accuse him of mediating between the two former coalition partners.

In any case, Papachristopoulos’s departure will certainly provoke tensions. The ANEL MP’s parliamentary seat is to be taken by Terens Quick, currently deputy foreign minister, who used to belong to ANEL.

If Quick refuses the seat, he will effectively deprive the government of its newly acquired majority of 151, which will drop to 150. If he takes it he will threaten ANEL’s cohesion, as its parliamentary group will drop below the minimum of five MPs.

This is because of the five remaining MPs, Aristidis Fokas initially entered Parliament on the Union of Centrists ticket before switching to ANEL and, according to parliamentary regulations, this means he does not count as a member of ANEL’s parliamentary group.

Another concern is that the government is running out of handouts to legislate. By the end of March or early April, the last few bills, including reforms introducing rent subsidies and payment schemes for self-employed professionals with debts to the state, are expected to have been approved and pre-election campaigning is expected to intensify.

Voutsis cryptically suggested on Tuesday that elections could come early, noting that although “we can last until October, in terms of Parliament,” factors relating to the “larger picture” such as the economy might have repercussions.