It is true that a gloom has descended on the holiday season again this winter, with a large part of the population continuing to be wary and mindful of the virus’ effects, particularly as it seems inevitable that the Omicron variant will take over by mid-January. On the other hand, it is also obvious that the festive spirit – artificial to a large extent – has resulted in people becoming more relaxed about observing safety measures and the authorities more lackadaisical about imposing them. This relaxation started some time ago and is also reflected in the government’s stance.
On the other side of the House, opposition leader Alexis Tsipras insists on exploiting the pandemic for his own political ends. During the recent debate on the 2022 budget, he accused the government and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of culpability and demanded their resignation – ergo, elections. The leftist leader is clearly taking the baton from party firebrand Pavlos Polakis and disgraced MP Panagiotis Kouroumplis, who was ousted from SYRIZA last week for accusing the center-right administration of “murder” over the Covid-19 death toll.
Tsipras had held off calling for snap polls on the pretext that the pandemic did not allow it. But we all know how good he is at U-turns, and he now appears to have no qualms about changing his mind as we grapple with a new wave and brace for the onset of Omicron. He doesn’t really mean it, of course. It is nothing more than a tactic to divert attention away from the government and onto his party. And the reason is that he knows he’s trailing in every single public opinion poll; because he feels threatened by the surge in popularity of the center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) alliance, at least for the time being; because he cannot stop himself from exercising a highly populist style of opposition and investing in polarization.
Tsipras also believes that he is safe in calling for early elections because Mitsotakis will make good on his assurances that the government intends to stay for its full term. Observers of political developments, however, are not so sure this will be the case. Many think it likely that early elections will be held within the next year, if the government’s generosity is anything to go by. If this does happen, this is where the political parties will show their true reach and mettle.