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The difficult "tango" of the triple coalition

08 July 2012 / 18:07:11  GRReporter
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The coexistence of different parties with conflicting ideologies in a government  is a situation that has never been seen before in the Greek political system. The government of three parties with a Prime Minister – the leader of New Democracy - Antonis Samaras, is an extremely difficult exercise in political equilibrium, even more so in a country without a culture of cooperation. The strength and stability of the government are influenced largely by the delicate balance within the parties and noone can predict what will happen in the future. During last week’s talks between the three leaders regarding the programme statements of the government certain problem areas were highlighted.

Almost until the last moment there were uncertainties about the final version of the programme statements of the government and compromises had to be made by all. On one hand this fact confirmed that the leaders of the three parties, involved in the government, will have to make numerous compromises and on the other, it intensified the fears that in the medium term plan an “explosion” may follow.

Serious disagreements exist between the three partners in the government and the big question observers and connoisseurs of backstage games are asking is, "when will the first crisis break out?", which will cause friction in the government scheme.

According to members of the government, apparently the leaders of PASOK Evangelos Venizelos and the Democratic Left Fotis Kouvelis are trying to find a balance between participation in the government and party costs.

The belief that there is a problem regarding the compatibility of government, coupled with structural problems and lack of real desire for cooperation is widespread in several ministries, political and business offices.

Conversely, the Prime Minister's entourages do not want to be extreme and reject the various conspiracy scenarios for a split between the three leaders. They want to believe that PASOK and the Democratic Left will prove in practice that their goal is the national interest and not to suffer smaller losses.

The Prime Minister, who leads an open dialogue with them, although recognizing the difficulties of coexistence must fight on another two fronts: one is the social front, where New Democracy set expectations regarding the renegotiation of the famous memorandum and the other is the European one, where European partners want immediate reform results.

A few days ago Evangelos Venizelos spoke before the PASOK parliamentary group and said that in order for the party to remain within the government a basic prerequisite is the establishment of a national group, which will renegotiate the memorandum. His move, combined with the phrase "New Democracy is governing" is interpreted by experienced members of New Democracy as an upcoming messenger, which will announce the exit of PASOK from the government. While addressing the parliamentary group of the Democratic Left its leader Fotis Kouvelis looked worried and it is not known for how long his party will continue to support the government.

Many analysts believe that although there was agreement on many issues, the government will have opposing views and positions.

For example, in connection with the programme statements read by Prime Minister Samaras many hours of debate were needed in order to reach a common position about privatization, infrastructure networks, the insistence of New Democracy to repeal the "Rangousis" law for immigrants, and even issues related to labour relations were postponed to autumn.

Even when it came to the position of the supervisory Troika, there were discrepancies. According to Samaras, firstly the government needs to implement part of the agreement, in order to provide better conditions and to initiate renegotiation of the memorandum.

On the other hand the opinions of Venizelos (as opposed to his position as Finance Minister) and Kouvelis are that a total renegotiation of the memorandum must be applied for at the highest level and that whatever applies to the Spanish and Italian debts (based on the decision made during the recent Summit of the European Union), should apply also to the Greek ones.

The disagreement is evident, as the Prime Minister believes that the government must show that it is doing something and later on it should renegotiate the terms, after the creditors have given, in all cases, deferral.

Samaras’ theory is that there is enough political time for renegotiation and also for the recapitalization of banks, which experienced members of the European Central Bank set for the end of 2012.

Equally interesting is the position of the Minister of Administrative Reform Antonis Manitakis (supported by the Democratic Left), regarding the issue of laying off 15,000 people in the public sector by the end of the year, which was demanded by the Troika.

Although an agreement was reached between the three leaders Samaras, Venizelos and Kouvelis, that there will be no layoffs in the public sector but transfers, Manitakis did not discuss the issue of alternative measures instead of laying off 15,000 civil servants during his meeting with representatives of the Troika.

In order to avoid any problems recruitment within the state machine is proceeding at a slower pace. The Prime Minister has ordered that a strict evaluation of the personnel and recruitment not be limited only to New Democracy supporters. "Employees from all three parties should be appointed", but the question is to what extent PASOK wants to actually participate in the government, while the Democratic Left has many members who want to get appointed.

Tags: triple coalition Greek government problems New Democracy PASOK Democratic Left
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