Athens, May 31, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Zacharias Petrou
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is contemplating a cabinet reshuffle possibly immediately after all the final prior actions of the first review are implemented and Greece receives its first installment of bailout funds.
The PM is believed to be weighing up whether it is better to conduct a reshuffle now or to wait until a Syriza party congress has been held. The congress is due to take place in July but there is a possibility it may be pushed back to the fall as the so called “Group of 53” and many Syriza MPs have requested.
Concluding the first bailout review and drawing up a road map for debt relief is not proving enough to boost the popularity of the government, hence Tsipras is reportedly being advised that a cabinet change may improve the coalition’s ratings. A Macedonia University poll published last week showed that 86.5 percent of Greeks are disappointed in the government and 41 percent would like an early election.
Initially, the Tsipras hoped that wrapping up the review and the gradual improvement of the economy would be enough for Syriza to rebound in opinion polls. However, estimates show that the economy is not set for an immediate upturn while the tax hikes decided by the government are highly unpopular.
Analysts point out that the Greek PM seems eager to avoid being singled out for criticism even by Syriza MPs who appear highly dissatisfied with the tough measures they’ve had to approve in parliament.
By getting the timing of a cabinet reshuffle right, Tsipras could strengthen his message that the government has stabilized the economy and put an end to political uncertainty while showing determination to complete the four-year term.
Furthermore, the coalition government hopes a change may improve performance in opinion polls while taking attention away from the unpopular measures recently passed through Parliament which will begin to bite in the autumn.
Two factors will largely determine whether or not Tsipras will bring forward a cabinet reshuffle, which will both need to be settled during the course of next week at the latest. The first factor is the swift conclusion of the bailout program review which requires the implementation of the last set of prior actions demanded by creditors. The second parameter is the date on which the Syriza party conference will be held. If it takes place in the fall, the PM could be tempted to proceed with the reshuffle earlier.
Tsipras is being advised that ministerial changes now may be considered unfair by some, while going into a conference having conducted a reshuffle may cause discontent amongst party members.
Main opposition New Democracy and minor opposition parties are reportedly preparing strategies for the event of an early election being called by the premier in the fall despite him sounding determined to see out the four-year term.
Opposition parties appear to believe Alexis Tsipras will make a final decision on whether or not to call an early election in October when he would have determined the political cost of the fresh austerity measures implemented and the IMF’s participation in the program would be clearer.
Furthermore, in the autumn the government will also have assessed how daunting the second review of the bailout program would be and if the 2017 budget provisions could be met without fresh spending cuts or tax increases required.