The Greek coalition government survived a no-confidence vote in parliament on Saturday, following a three-day debate. The motion was filed by the main opposition party, following the agreement Athens struck with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to end a decades-long name dispute.
Surviving the no-confidence vote allows the coalition to focus on its key political objective of securing debt relief at a crucial Eurogroup meeting on 21 June, which is also expected to pave the way for the conclusion of the country’s international bailout in August 2018.
SYRIZA and Independent Greeks (ANEL) MPs provided their support to the government, with the notable exception of ANEL MP Dimitris Kammenos. The MP was immediately expelled from the party by ANEL leader Panos Kammenos, reducing the ruling majority to 153 parliamentarians.
New Democracy, Democratic Cooperation, To Potami, Union of Centrists and Golden Dawn voted against the government. The Communist party did not participate in the process.
As a result, the no-confidence motion filed by New Democracy was rejected with 153 votes against and 127 in favor.
The debate saw Prime Minister Tsipras clash fiercely with New Democracy party leader Kyriacos Mitsotakis.
Speaking in parliament, the Greek Prime Minister defended the agreement with FYROM, going into the details of the deal and explaining the positives for Greece. The premier also praised his government’s work in general, especially in the handling of the economic crisis, while focusing a large part of his speech on criticizing Kyriacos Mitsotakis personally for his opposition tactics.
According to Tsipras, the government is leading the country to the end of the Memorandum-era imminently, while also solving a crucial foreign policy issue such as the FYROM name dispute; two historic developments in the Prime Minister’s view.
He accused Kyriacos Mitsotakis of shifting his party to the far-right, pointing out that his no-confidence motion is inexplicable and cynical. Tsipras said Mitsotakis is only interested in forcing an election and nothing else, choosing to ignore the commencement of a new era for Greece, which the government is ushering in. Tsipras went on to point out that Mitsotakis is being criticized by the international community for his negative stance to the name-change agreement, while also identifying with the attitude of the nationalist opposition in Skopje.
Moreover, the PM accused New Democracy of being a destabilizing force in Greek politics, in its desperate attempt to portray the coalition government to be “deceiving the people” and “making concessions that are damaging to the nation”. He called on fellow MPs to reject New Democracy’s no-confidence motion, in support of the “stronger Greece” being envisaged by his government.
On the name-change agreement, Tsipras explained that the government scored many gains in the negotiations with Skopje and put in place a series of safeguards for the interests and argumentation of Greece – especially on the issues of identity and language. New Democracy’s problem is that the government achieved a “good agreement”, Tsipras added, “where previous governments had failed”.
In his speech, Kyriacos Mitsotakis strongly criticized both ANEL party leader Panos Kammenos, whom he called a “political hypocrite”, and the Prime Minister who he said was “departing the national positions and interests”. “You both deserve the Nobel Prize in political fraud […] you are demagogues and liars”, Mitsotakis charged.
The conservative party leader focused on the FYROM name-change agreement, which prompted the no-confidence motion, calling it the pinnacle of the SYRIZA-ANEL coalition government’s failed and catastrophic policies. “A vote against the no-confidence motion today, is a vote in favor of Tsipras’ agreement with Zaev tomorrow”, he said, calling on all MPs, including those of ANEL, to “show responsibility”. He accused ANEL of wanting to keep its option to bring down the government later, perhaps at a more convenient time for the party.
Of Tsipras’s efforts to resolve the FYROM name dispute, he said: “The government intended to turn a national issue into a political tool for its volitions […] ignoring citizens and attempting to trap the political system”. He also accused Tsipras of negotiating in secret and seeking a quick deal in any way, without any inhibitions in making hugely detrimental concessions to FYROM.
Earlier, ANEL party leader Panos Kammenos made clear that he backs the government, despite voicing a difference view to SYRIZA on the deal Athens struck with Skopje to resolve the FYROM name dispute. He vowed to vote against the agreement whenever it comes to parliament – once Skopje have taken all the agreed steps to ratify the deal – but pointed out that today’s no-confidence vote is a different issue. Kammenos went on to criticize New Democracy leader Kyriacos Mitsotakis for attempting “to target ANEL with his no-confidence motion”, and drew attention to the different approaches on FYROM within the main opposition party. Finally, his attack on the main opposition extended into accusations of corruption, characteristically mentioning the Novartis “scandal” among other examples.
Finally, it is worth noting that even though To Potami supported the no-confidence vote, party leader Stavros Theodorakis expressed a distinct view on the name-change agreement from Democratic Cooperation leader Fofi Gennimata. Theodorakis spoke in favor of the agreement in principle, highlighting the need for the dispute with FYROM to be resolved./IBNA