The battle for the center
Lagging behind conservatives in polls, PM Tsipras seeks inroads to middle ground
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.