The toughest conditions ever attached to a Greek loan agreement could sail easily through Greece’s turbulent parliament when a vote is held Wednesday, even as widespread defections from Alexis Tsipras’s governing coalition threaten his government.
That’s because Greece’s main opposition political parties, conservative New Democracy, centrist To Potami and Socialist Pasok, have united in supporting the sweeping reform agenda that is a prerequisite to keeping the country in the euro.
“The measures included in the agreement are the measures which have been approved by the Greek parliament,” Tsipras said after a marathon summit of euro-area leaders on Monday, referring to a long list of actions needed to secure a new three-year bailout of as much as 86 billion euros ($95 billion.) The government submitted a bill Tuesday that ratifies the agreement and calls for additional annual revenues and savings of 4.5 billion euros from new taxes and social security reforms.
Tsipras had already won the parliament’s nod to negotiate a deal in return for austerity measures before he left for Brussels. The government’s proposal secured an overwhelming 251 votes in Greece’s 300-seat chamber Saturday, even without the backing more than a dozen lawmakers from Tsipras’s Coalition of the Radical Left, or Syriza, party.
Greece must hold a similar vote by Wednesday to enact the first set of reforms demanded by its creditors as a sign of rebuilding trust after six months of often acrimonious talks. While more members of Tsipras’s Syriza party are threatening to defect, a look at the numbers shows that Greece may escape this time the cliffhanger of past bailout votes.
Tsipras’s coalition government commands 149 seats in parliament held by Syriza lawmakers and another 13 seats held by members of right-wing Independent Greeks, the junior coalition partner. Their combined 12-seat majority evaporated Saturday, when 17 lawmakers from Syriza refused to back Tsipras’s proposals to creditors and may be eroded further if another 15 Syriza lawmakers, who said they wouldn’t consent to further austerity, also vote against the package Wednesday.
Tsipras may not be able to rely either on the backing of his junior partner, after Independent Greeks’ leader Panos Kammenos wrote on twitter “enough is enough,” once the creditors’ demands became known. Kammenos said Tuesday he would only vote for measures already approved by the Greek parliament. If all of Kammenos’s lawmakers vote against the deal, and there are no more defections from Syriza, the ruling coalition may be left with the support of just over 100 lawmakers.
Still, unless a full scale mutiny against Tsipras unfolds within Syriza, any further defections could be more than offset by the combined 106 votes of the three opposition parties that fully support the measures, ensuring a majority of over 200 votes or two thirds of the chamber. A simple majority of 151 votes or over is required for the measures to pass.
What may prove much harder is for a weakened Syriza-led government to implement the very austerity it came to power to abolish.
Dissenters from Syriza’s ranks include some high-profile lawmakers and ministers like Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, Parliament speaker Zoi Konstantopoulou, and Deputy Minister of Social Security Dimitris Stratoulis. Former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was also absent from Saturday’s vote, citing personal reasons.
In a blog post Tuesday, Varoufakis criticized the agreement, which he dubbed as “terms of surrender” for Greece, without committing on how he would vote.
“Much energy is expended by the media on whether the Terms of Surrender will pass through Greek Parliament, and in particular on whether MPs like myself will toe the line and vote in favor of the relevant legislation,” he wrote. “The greatest worry is that even a complete surrender on our part would lead to a deepening of the never-ending crisis.”
With his parliamentary majority lost and his government divided, Tsipras will have a choice of either presiding over a minority government with the help of opposition parties or stepping down to make way for a national unity government. Should he step down, a new government could be formed within three days if there is enough backing on a new prime minister agreed by the main political parties in the current parliament.
George Saravelos, a strategist at Deutsche Bank AG said the agreement reached in Brussels Monday will likely precipitate political change in Greece.
“We would consider a minority or national unity government as the most likely outcome,” Saravelos wrote in a note to clients. “Greek politics are now likely to shift to more well-defined political narratives, ultimately distinguished by party positions on euro membership rather than austerity.”
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