MPs on Friday started debating in Parliament a censure motion against the government, submitted by leftist SYRIZA in response to a police raid on the occupied headquarters of the former state broadcaster ERT and as a broader protest against relentless austerity, ahead of a vote in the House on Sunday at midnight.
The government is virtually certain to emerge from the vote of no confidence unscathed as the leftists are far short of the 151 votes in the 300-seat House for their motion to stand. But both government and opposition appeared determined to make the most of an opportunity to rally their troops.
Two full days before the vote, tensions were already high in Parliament Friday, with an almost constant stream of barbs being exchanged between opposition and coalition MPs.
The leftists, for the most part, condemned the government as dangerous for its citizens and democracy while coalition lawmakers accused the leftist opposition of trying to destabilize the country at a crucial moment as negotiations are under way with representatives of the country’s international creditors.
Yiannis Dragasakis, a prominent SYRIZA deputy, told the House that his party’s censure motion was “not only our right but an act of democratic responsibility.” In stark contrast, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos told his MPs earlier in the day that the call for a no confidence vote in the government constituted an “act of irresponsibility against the nation.”
SYRIZA called on supporters to hold an anti-austerity protest outside Parliament on Sunday evening ahead of the vote. But, irrespective of the popular support it draws, the party is almost certain to fall far short of the support it needs inside Parliament to pass its motion. With the votes of its MPs – as well as those from the Communist Party, the right-wing, anti-bailout Independent Greeks and the lawmakers of ultra-right Golden Dawn who are not in pre-trial custody – SYRIZA can only hope to garner 117 votes, far short of the 151 it needs.
Democratic Left, which was the third party in the coalition until quitting in June over the ERT shut-down, has said its 14 MPs will vote “present” while the intentions of most of Parliament’s 11 independents remain unclear.
Despite vehement criticism of SYRIZA by several government officials, sources told Kathimerini that there are no real concerns about the outcome or repercussions of the vote. Indeed there is a sense that the outcome will give the government some much-needed momentum as talks with troika envoys on economic reforms and a budget gap for 2014 are expected to enter their final stretch next week.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, for his part, appears keen to use the vote to rally his party following recent turbulence in its ranks after statements by prominent MPs, including Panayiotis Lafazanis and veteran leftist Manolis Glezos, that challenged Tsipras’s official policy line.