The bat­tle for the cen­ter

Lag­ging be­hind con­ser­va­tives in polls, PM Tsipras seeks in­roads to mid­dle ground

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

With elec­tions on the hori­zon next year, ob­servers ex­pect the bat­tle be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras and New Democ­racy leader Kyr­i­akos Mit­so­takis to be fought in the cen­ter ground of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

To this end, Tsipras is bank­ing on the so­cial div­i­dend that will be dis­bursed on De­cem­ber 14 to re­verse the for­tunes of his rul­ing SYRIZA party, which has steadily lagged be­hind the con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion in opin­ion polls.

Tsipras’s over­ture to cen­ter-left vot­ers has also been high­lighted by ef­forts to en­gage the Eu­ro­pean So­cial Democrats and through com­mit­ments to pro­vide more hand­outs and ben­e­fits to the mid­dle classes.

His in­ten­tion to tap the cen­ter ground is also re­flected in the de­ci­sion to back can­di­dates of so­cial­ist PASOK in May’s lo­cal elec­tions.

How­ever, this may not be enough to prop up his gov­ern­ment, as SYRIZA’s coali­tion part­ner, In­de­pen­dent Greeks (ANEL), has pledged to jump ship once the name deal signed be­tween Greece and the For­mer Yu­goslav Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia last sum­mer heads to Par­lia­ment for rat­i­fi­ca­tion.

The stance of ANEL leader Panos Kam­menos stems from an ef­fort to rally his na­tion­al­ist base given that polls have shown the party is well be­low the 3-per­cent thresh­old needed to en­ter Par­lia­ment.

On the other hand, Kam­menos is not ex­pected to back a cen­sure mo­tion against the gov­ern­ment that ND is plan­ning to sub­mit over the name deal.

How­ever, if SYRIZA and ANEL do part ways, Tsipras will be left, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, with two op­tions.

The first would be to call na­tional elec­tions in May to co­in­cide with lo­cal and Eu­ro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions or ear­lier.

Ac­cord­ing to se­nior of­fi­cials, the draw­back to this op­tion would be that Tsipras would head for elec­tions as the leader of a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment.

If, how­ever, Tsipras de­cides to com­plete a full four-year term, he will be faced with the task of win­ning a 151-seat Par­lia­ment ma­jor­ity.

Given the cur­rent balance in Par­lia­ment this could only be achieved by pick­ing up votes from ANEL law­mak­ers.

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