The clash between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and main opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis in parliament yesterday shows that the electoral period is already in full swing, and that the clash will be ruthless to the end.
Sparks were flying in the plenary session and it is clear that we shall see conditions of extreme polarisation on the path to the polls.
If all the characterisations unleashed in the chamber, mainly from opposition MPs, were recorded in the minutes, one would get a sense of the extremely charged environment.
When New Democracy Vice-President Adonis Georgiadis verbally attacked the PM, only the response of Speaker Nikos Voutsis was recorded – “Mr. Georgiadis, you said something that only I heard.”
The characterisations of MPs and parties as “traitors” were reminiscent of distant decades when parliamentary life was very turbulent. Often there was sparring between MPs which required the intervention of the Speaker to calm things down.
The tensions, skirmishes, and annoyance that prevailed in the chamber are indicative of the emerging conditions as elections draw nearer and the popular verdict will be delivered.
A PM out of control
The Prime Minister in parliament was out of control. He attempted to counter-attack by brandishing the front-pages of Ta Nea and To Vima, targeting once again their owner, Evangelos Marinakis, to such a degree that the clash between Tsipras and Mitsotakis almost seemed secondary.
Clash over Prespa Agreement
For Mitsotakis, developments regarding the Greece-FYROM Prespa Agreement, in the shadow of FYROM PM Zoran Zaev’s irredentist remarks, were central to his criticism of the Tsipras.
For the first time, Mitsotakis in parliament accused the PM of using the open wound of the FYROM naming issue as a diversion, and that Tsipras signed on to the accord in return for the EU and lenders agreeing to abolish pension cuts. He warned that New Democracy will use all the constitutional tools in its arsenal to keep the government from pressing forward with the agreement – an apparent reference to a planned New Democracy no confidence motion.
Tsipras essentially challenged Mitsotakis to table a no confidence motion “so we can see how the sides measure up”. This was despite the problems created by his junior coalition partner, the Independent Greeks, and the shilly shallying of its leader Panos Kammenos, who declared that when the accord is tabled in the Greek Parliament for ratification, “The independent Greeks will withdraw from the government and from its parliamentary majority.”
That was interpreted as a threat that the party will not support the government in the event of a possible New Democracy no confidence motion, even though a bit earlier at a meeting of its parliamentary group MPs said that they oppose the agreement but will not topple the government.
Questions were also raised by the “flirt” between Kammenos and Centrists’ Union party leader Vasilis Leventis, when the former said that he will follow until the end the same path [against the accord] with Leventis, but his love appeared to be unrequited.
In that uncertain climate, the anxiety of the PM as regards handling developments triggered by Zaev’s remarks forced him to send a message to FYROM that it is obliged to comply with both the spirit and the letter of the agreement, otherwise both the accord and Skopje’s admission to international organisations [Nato and the EU] will not go forward.
At the same time, the PM’s staff signaled that at the forthcoming EU summit he will highlight the fact that Mitsotakis declared that the signing the Prespa Agreement was a quid pro quo with lenders and partners, who in return approved the rescinding of pension cuts.
Attack on Pasok
Another thing that causes a sensation was Tsipras’ attempt to woo the erstwhile political base of Pasok, declaring that, “We are not about to hand these voters over to a bankrupt [Movement for Change] leadership, which led this party where it did. We shall be side by side”.
New Democracy reacted strongly to the prime minister’s deprecating reference to former SYRIZA MP Petros Tatsopoulos as “the dregs of political life who occupied SYRIZA’s parliamentary seat and because he had odd relations with half of Athens (Tatsopoulos had declared that he had slept with half of Athens) he left SYRIZA and went to you [ND] so that he might end up sleeping with the other half of Athens”.
The protracted skirmishes between Tsipras and Mitsotakis drew intense reactions, with Kammenos and Greek Communist Party MP Nikos Karathanasopoulos warning that if this happens again they will leave the chamber.
An embarrassing haste
Alexis Tsipras was so anxious to link Ta Nea and To Vima, and even more so their owner and businessman Evangelos Marinakis, to fake news, that he ended up being exposed by the calendar. He essentially targeted Marinakis’ Alter Ego SA Media Company over articles published and reported on the radio station of the Group’s previous ownership, the Lambrakis Press (DOL S.A.).
Immortal quotes of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
“I will abolish the bailout memorandum with one law and one article.”
“SYRIZA commits itself to do whatever it can to once again place the Public Power Company under state control 100 percent. For us, that is an axiom.”
“We shall end any discussion about raising the VAT tax on the islands.”
“We shall not allow public assets and infrastructure to be handed over to the claws of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (TAIPED).”
“Go back Madam Merkel. Go back Mr. Schaueble. Go back gentlemen of the conservative nomenclature.”
“We shall not allow the vultures of international funds to speculate by seizing the property of Greek citizens. We shall protect the primary residences of Greek citizens. No home in the hands of a banker.”
“The ENFIA [real estate] tax is an irrational tax. It cannot be corrected. It must be abolished.”
“The 751-euro minimum wage will reinstated for all working people, regardless of age.”
“In the past, a minister would be replaced and a whole army of party cadres, personal friends, and personal advisors appointed by the minister would leave as well. We say that this must stop. It will stop because we shall bring a different outlook.”