Tsipras Loses Bid to Apply New Rules in Next Greek Election

  • Next national vote will continue with 50-seat bonus for winner
  • Tsipras fails to make approved new laws effective immediately

Greece won’t immediately implement new electoral rules which scrap a 50-seat bonus for the winning side after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras failed to raise enough support to make the changes effective immediately.

Tsipras’s Syriza government failed to secure a majority of 200 lawmakers in the 300-seat chamber to make the new rules, approved in a session that ended early Friday, effective immediately. A total of 179 lawmakers voted to abolish the bonus, with 83 voting against and 19 abstaining. That means the bonus remains in place for Greece’s next election, scheduled for 2019, and will be scrapped for the subsequent vote.

With the bonus seats still in play, “the scenario of snap elections now looks completely distant, as it would only move Syriza further from governance,” said Aristides Hatzis, a professor of law and economics at the University of Athens. Syriza has struggled in recent opinion polls, which show that rival New Democracy could finish first if elections were held now.

“Greece dodged the worst,” by voting to maintain the old system for the next election, Hatzis said. Given political divisions in the country, any parliament formed under the new law “would be so fragmented it could be impossible to form a government.” Coalitions under the new law would likely consist of “many partners with vetoes to block any decision they don’t like.”

Winners and Losers

A new vote with the 50-seat bonus system could propel New Democracy back into power and give the party the chance to overturn the Tsipras-sponsored rule change. Syriza took power by defeating the New Democracy-led government of Antonis Samaras in 2015 and has ruled the country since then.

Greece, bailed out by its euro-area counterparts and the International Monetary Fund three times since 2011, has held four national elections and a referendum in the last five years. Political instability and the prospect of changes of government have led to tense relationships with creditors and periodic disruptions in bailout-program negotiations, while keeping much-needed investment out of the country.

Syriza’s popularity has been in decline since Tsipras agreed to a deal with creditors in 2015, which forced him to renege on previous pledges and implement new austerity measures.

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