Following Panos Kammenos’ announcement on Sunday that he is resigning from the SYRIZA – Independent Greeks (ANEL) coalition government, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced he will seek a vote of confidence in parliament imminently and reiterated his intention to see out his four year term in office.
The Greek premier accepted the resignation of Panos Kammenos as Defense Minister, adding that he will also accept any other possible resignations from ministerial posts. The junior coalition partner decided to quit the government in protest to an agreement between Athens and Skopje that will see neighboring FYROM renamed Northern Macedonia (known as the Prespes Agreement).
According to latest information, the relevant debate will reportedly begin on Tuesday and culminate in a vote of confidence on Wednesday evening, before MPs vote on the Prespes Agreement – by the end of January.
Having ruled out the option of forming a “minority government”, the PM will now be seeking two separate majorities: one to win the confidence vote and one to ratify the Prespes Agreement at the end of January.
Media reports suggest that the Prime Minister has effectively managed to “split” the Independent Greeks party as key MPs and ministers have decided to support Tsipras – both in the vote of confidence and the Prespes Agreement vote – against the party line dictated by Kammenos.
Specifically, in order to win a vote of confidence, the PM is thought to be counting on his 145 SYRIZA MPs as well as the support of independent MP Katerina Papacosta, ANEL MPs Costas Zouraris, Thanasis Papachristopoulos, Vasilis Kokkalis and Elena Kountoura, To Potami MP Spyros Danellis. Union of Centrist MP Ioannis Saridis is also rumored to be contemplating supporting Tsipras.
In this scenario, Alexis Tsipras will carry on in power and call an election when he sees fit, even at the end of the government’s four year term in the autumn of 2019. However, if he fails to win the vote of confidence, he has committed to going to the people in due course, after important legislation – such as the Prespes Agreement and other draft bills – have been pushed through the House.
Analysts suggest that it is unlikely a prospective vote of confidence will be lost. This is supported by the fact that a confidence vote can also be won with a majority of MPs present in the debate. According to the Constitution, a vote of confidence could be secured by a majority of fewer than 151 votes, but no less than 120 votes of the 300-member House.
Meanwhile, in the upcoming vote on the ratification of the Prespes accord, the government is thought to be relying on the support of the 145 SYRIZA MPs along with the votes of independent MP Katerina Papacosta, To Potami MPs Stavros Theodorakis, Spyros Danellis, Giorgos Mavrotas and Spyros Lykoudis, Democratic Alliance MP Thanasis Theocharopoulos and ANEL MPs Thanasis Papachristopoulos and Elena Kountoura.
The latest political developments have left Panos Kammenos facing the risk of being left without a parliamentary group to lead.
Specifically, if he doesn’t allow his MPs a free vote in the confident motion and more than three decide to back the Tsipras administration – leading to their resignation from the party – Kammenos will automatically become an independent MP, according to parliamentary rules, losing his party leader privileges.
The Prespes Agreement vote is also expected to be costly for the Independent Greeks, as Elena Kountoura and Thanassis Papachristopoulos are expected to defy the party line and vote in favor of the name-change deal.
However, analysts are calling the breakup of the SYRIZA – ANEL coalition a “win-win divorce” that allows Alexis Tsipras to stay in power and call an election at an opportune moment, while at the same time ensuring that the Independent Greeks will not disintegrate, thus maintaining their chances of re-election in this year’s general elections.
As things stand, only Panos Kammenos who is Defense Minister and his Deputy Minister Maria Kollia-Tsaroucha, will resign their government posts. Moreover, MPs Thanasis Papachristopoulos are not expected to be expelled from the ANEL party even if they do vote in favor of the Prespes accord. Conveniently, this arithmetic keeps SYRIZA in power and the Independent Greeks parliamentary group safe from being dissolved./IBNA