It has often been said that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is deliberately trying to make life difficult for the next government. Knowing that New Democracy opposition is a heavy favorite to win next year’s elections, the leftist leader is doing all he can to ensure that a conservative stint in government will be short-lived courtesy of a leftist legacy of insurmountable problems and tough decisions.
This week’s cabinet reshuffle installed several 40-something Tsipras devotees as ministers and deputy ministers in an apparent bid to bolster their public image ahead of the elections. Tsipras is forming a very “personal” party, as it were, which he hopes will play a key role in domestic politics and serve his ambition for a political comeback following a short ND interval. The shakeup was also designed to strengthen the presence of nationalist coalition partners Independent Greeks (ANEL) in the new cabinet. This was done, first, to keep ANEL folk happy and prevent fresh departures that could endanger the government’s majority in Parliament and, second, to convey the message that Tsipras’s personal ties with ANEL chief and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos are unbreakable. This means the duo will continue as one until they decide to fall together. And if the coalition were to come to an end before the completion of its four-year tenure, that, as everyone knows, would have to be triggered by the name issue with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
That said, it would not be a surprise if Tsipras and Kammenos were to use the issue to sabotage the next government’s political prospects. One scenario is that Tsipras does not put the name deal to a parliamentary vote so that Kammenos does not defect from the coalition. Another scenario is that the agreement is put to vote but Tsipras makes sure backstage that, given ANEL’s opposition, the deal does not go through thanks to the votes of deputies from other parties.
Nothing should be excluded. Such plans however could run into opposition from the United States. Washington supported the name agreement. As Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell told a Senate foreign relations committee hearing, “We have placed particular emphasis on bolstering the states of frontline Europe that are most susceptible to Russian geopolitical pressure.”
The strategic objective is to settle outstanding issues in the western Balkans and contain Russian influence in the region. The Americans have a plan for the region and they will not tolerate delays. Will Tsipras dare play his own games?