Greek constitutional review in limbo


The Parliament debate on the constitutional review was in gridlock on Tuesday as ruling SYRIZA and opposition New Democracy continue to disagree over how to review the key article 32 regarding the election of the country’s president, as the conservatives insisted on a review of Article 16, which prohibits the establishment of private universities.  

SYRIZA and ND also clashed over the former’s insistence that the current Parliament must not only decide which articles will be subject to revision but also bind the next Parliament to the content of these revisions. ND said the content of any revision must not bind the next Parliament. 

As for the appointment of the president, both sides agree that there must be a change to current rules stipulating that failure by Parliament to appoint a president will trigger elections, though they disagree about how this should be done. 

ND, which expects to form a government after elections later in the year, is wary of a possible upset after the end of the current president’s term in 2020. 

Both the debate and the vote in Parliament Thursday will be on the proposals made by the two main parties on which articles of the Constitution must be reviewed. The same procedure will be repeated a month later, with the House taking the final vote on the number of articles that will be reviewed by the next Parliament. 

Articles that receive a majority of 180 MP votes will be able to be revised in the next Parliament with the votes of 151 MPs. Provisions that get more than 151 but less than 180 votes in next month’s vote will only be able to be revised by the next Parliament if they are backed by 180 votes. 

Reports that ND would support certain SYRIZA proposals for constitutional review prompted a backlash from Alternate Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos, who accused the conservatives of “scheming” and said that SYRIZA might “respond in a way that in other circumstances it wouldn’t.”

His words were interpreted as suggesting that SYRIZA might hold back its MPs to ensure that the leftists’ own proposals do not garner an enhanced majority of 180.

SYRIZA appears to fear that proposals attracting a 180 majority now would only require a simple majority under the next government, which is likely to be a conservative one that could change the content of the amendments.

Meanwhile, the prospect of snap polls appeared more likely on Tuesday after yet another in a series of government officials indicated that elections in May were a possibility.

In comments to News 24/7 Radio, prominent leftist SYRIZA cadre Nikos Filis said elections should take place “when there is the opportunity for people to express themselves without confusion.”

“Of course there is the limit of the four-year term,” he said. “But as the technical capabilities are available, it could be on a different date, I mean in May,” he said, referring to the European Parliament and local authority elections that are scheduled for that month.

Filis’s comments were in the same vein as recent statements by SYRIZA’s party secretary Panos Skourletis and Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis.

Also, Interior Minister Alexis Haritsis, whose ministry is responsible for organizing elections, remarked a few days ago that the ministry is “prepared for all possibilities.”