Just two hours after Prime Ministet Kyriakos’ decisions about the cabinet reshuffle were announced, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, who had served as defence minister under the previous SYRIZA government, refused to accept his appointment as minister in the newly-created civil protection ministry.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis created the ministry after this month’s disastrous wildfires, which destroyed over 100,000 hectares of forest land.
Apostolakis finally refused his appointment as minister following a scathing attack by SYRIZA, which referred to him as an “apostate”, essentially as a traitor.
It is hardly the first time for a Greek government to appoint as minister a cadre of the main opposition. Such moves are designed to signal a broadening of the ruling party’s ideological and electoral base.
Yet, the rejection of an appointment after the fact is highly unusual, and in this case it raises unanswered questions about the understanding between Apostolakis and Mitsotakis.
Apostolakis maintained that he accepted the post on condition that there would be an inter-party consensus. Yet, there is no precedent for a main opposition party approval of a ministerial appointment.
In a statement to the iEidiseis news website, Apostolakis said, “This was decided under the condition that there would be inter-party [New-Democracy-SYRIZA] consensus. This was the one precondition for the creation of an independent [civil protection] ministry, to which Mr. Mitsotakis agreed. The first part [regarding the creation of an independent ministry] was honoured. Yet there was no bi-partisan agreement or discussion. I do not eschew responsibility. Yet, I cannot accept a proposal [appointment] that lacks inter-party consensus on a national issue. I am deeply honoured by the PM’s proposal, but it required inter-party support.”
Analysts maintain that the harsh announcement of SYRIZA that characterised the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as an “apostate” or traitor played a key role in leading Apostolakis to refuse his appointment.
Sources said that Apostololakis spoke to main opposition leader and former PM Alexis Tsipras last Monday and informed him that Stelios Nikiforakis – who is considered to be in the inner circle of the Mitsotakis family – had offered him the post of alternate civil protection minister.
Tsipras reportedly stated that such a move would constitute betrayal as his proposal for national consensus concerned management of environmental problems and a specific plan, and not individuals.
Apostolakis reportedly replied that he was not willing under these conditions to become a minister in a right-wing government.
SYRIZA sources stated about Apotolakis that, “Obviously for reasons that he alone knows, he changed his opinion along the way. We wish him good luck. Yet, he should know that history never exhibited pity for those who do not recognise that in life there are values that are higher than fleeting offices.”