Constitutional review backfires, turning up heat on Tsipras


With early elections looking increasingly likely in May, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s push for a constitutional review to bolster his center-left credentials and rally his party could well backfire if recent developments are any indication.

The government launched the process in the belief that the public debate on the constitutional review could work in its favor as a way to highlight its differences with the conservative New Democracy opposition and make inroads to the center ground of the political spectrum. However, the results of Thursday’s preliminary parliamentary vote on which articles of the constitution will be revised by the next House that will be sworn in after this year’s general elections showed that ruling SYRIZA failed in this objective.

This failure was particularly highlighted by the rejection of its flagship proposal to review Article 30 so that the president is elected directly by the people if Parliament fails to appoint one in two consecutive votes. Moreover, the motion to revise Article 3 – which would abolish the reference to the Holy Trinity in the constitution’s preamble and that of a “prevalent religion” – was only marginally passed with 151 votes in the 300-seat House. The result of the votes on these two articles showed that not all SYRIZA MPs toed the party line. Furthermore, five senior leftist lawmakers were among those who did not vote in favor of the revision of Article 30.

Uncertainty over the outcome of the constitutional review will continue until next month’s second and final vote, which is expected to take place with national elections looming, as analysts see Tsipras’s decision to proceed with a light cabinet reshuffle last Friday as heralding early elections in May, instead of October when the government’s mandate officially expires.

This belief is also strengthened by the fact that the government is mulling the issue of a 10-year bond in March, which would further boost its narrative that the country’s economy is firmly back on track. Moreover, analysts say that last week’s agreement between the government and the country’s systemic banks on the protection framework for debtors’ primary residence could prompt Tsipras to call elections as early as April.