Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis issued a strong denial of the rampant speculation that has been raging for weeks that he plans to go forward with a cabinet reshuffle.
That had been preceded by a number of denials over many weeks of reports that he plans to hold early elections in order to capitalise on his New Democracy party’s huge lead over main opposition SYRIZA, which has reached as high as a whopping 20 percentage points.
One justification for snap elections would be the desire for a fresh mandate to gain approval for a post-pandemic recovery plan.
Greece’s economy is expected to shrink by as much as ten percentage points and unemployment to skyrocket as a large percentage of businesses are shutting down or struggling to survive with limited government assistance.
Mitsotakis however reportedly has ruled out that option as it might aggravate the economic downturn and limit any foreign interest in investment which was slow in coming even before the pandemic.
To reshuffle or not to reshuffle
Journalists on the New Democracy beat and political reporters have for some time been touting the prospect of a cabinet reshuffle based on information that he is dissatisfied with the performance of several ministers and that there are others whom he wants to promote such as Civil Protection Deputy Minister Nikos Hardalias who is in large measure credited with the excellent management of the pandemic on the ground.
His stern admonitions to follow public health strictures at a daily presser and his visits to pandemic hotspots with cameras have made him a very familiar face and household name.
The PM’s popularity has been vastly enhanced because of his early decision – based on the advice of a scientific committee that includes certain researchers well known internationally – to declare an early lockdown in mid-March and Greece’s extremely low incidence of coronavirus spread and deaths. Around 80 percent of the public approve of his handling of the crisis
Greece’s success story on this front – so far – has garnered Mitsotakis profuse praise from the international press.
Mitsotakis’ ‘mountain decisons
“As you know, I take my decisions in the mountains but now it is summertime,” Mitsotakis told Greek journalists accompanying him on a visit to Jerusalem.
When pressed by reporters the PM quipped, “You are using the wrong word [reshuffle]. The right phrase is corrective moves.”
Greece-Israel strategic partnership
The visit to Israel came at an especially crucial juncture with heightened Turkish challenges to Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone and naval manoeuvres that strongly imply a readiness for a military confrontation.
Israel is obviously a part of the regional geopolitical equation because Greece, Israel, and Cyprus have forged a strategic alliance based on shared interests arising from the huge hydrocarbons wealth that each has in same neighbourhood.
Mitsotakis declared that the Greece-Israel strategic partnership is a given and that it is deep and substantial.
“We hope to expand it into new fields,” he said, citing the defence industry, tourism and the hotels sector, the green economy, water management, and innovation and new technologies,” he underlined.
“I see a huge interest in high tech simply because the Israeli side has important enterprises [in this field] and we have engineers, human capital, and access to the European market.”
The PM told reporters that he discussed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Turkey’s role and actions in the broader region.
“I presented the big picture of Turkey’s destabilising role in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Mitsotakis said.
He also commented on Turkey’s reaction to the recent Greece-Italy agreement delimiting the two countries EEZs.
“I have read the conflicting statements of Turkish officials with interest,” he said.