By George Gilson
Centre-left Movement for Change leader Fofi Gennimata has unleashed a frontal attack against main opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis over his warning that if New Democracy does not receive a strong mandate in the 7 July general election then the country will be led to a second parliamentary election in August, in the middle of most Greeks’ summer vacation.
“Mr. Mitsotakis is now telling us ‘Mitsotakis or chaos.’ He is crudely blackmailing the Greek people but they are not buying it. They want political stability and not adventures. They want a strong Movement for Change as a progressive counterweight to the danger of an uncontrollable right-wing [government],” Gennimata declared in a campaign speech in Patras.
“On 7 July we have a rendez-vous with progressive citizens at the ballot box. Do not forfeit your progressive identity. A vote for the Movement for Change is a useful vote,” she added.
The attack comes straight on the heels of Gennimata’s political sea change.
Gennimata’s about face
Whereas for months she adamantly ruled out entering any coalition government after the elections, as she said her party would not be a “crutch” for either SYRIZA and New Democracy, in the last few days she has said that the Movement for Change is prepared to choose the path of the so-called “tolerance vote”, allowing the first party to get a confidence vote in Parliament and to govern.
It is highly uncertain that Mitsotakis would accept such a fragile solution, although a number of prominent Movement for Change MPs in recent days have intimated that the party could conceivably even enter a coalition in order to ensure political and economic stability.
The Greek Constitution and parliamentary rules stipulate that for a government to receive the mandatory confidence of parliament it must garner an absolute majority of MPs who are present in the chamber at the time of the confidence vote. An absolute majority of the entire 300-seat legislature (151 votes) is not necessary.
A party offers a tolerance vote when it declares to the Speaker that it will abstain from the confidence vote.
Gennimata was responding to Mitsotakis’ stark ultimatum to the electorate that the only path to political stability is a strong parliamentary majority for ND.
“If for any reason a government cannot be formed after the 7 July election, then the country will ineluctably again head to elections in mid-August. Citizens should understand well what it means not to have a strong mandate on the night of 7 July,” Mitsotakis declared.
“Of course, [the country] will be led to elections in mid-August with a proportional representation system. That means de facto that the only kind of government that can be formed and which I cannot conceive of is a government of – shall we call it national understanding? – where essentially the first and second party will have to reach an understanding,” he added.
“If that is what Greek citizens want, then obviously should not give us a strong mandate.”