Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ SYRIZA government has won the parliament’s Friday vote of confidence, receiving a majority vote of 153 MPs in a 300-seat house.
Proceedings were initiated when the main opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis introduced a vote of censure against Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis, for accusing Stelios Kymbouropoulos, a wheelchair-bound conservative candidate for MEP, of exploiting affirmative action laws to secure a state job.
The government reacted by calling a confidence vote in an apparent bid to avoid making the outspoken minister the focus of a debate in the countdown to elections, particularly as several MPs in leftist SYRIZA object to his behavior.
Polakis claimed to have treated Kymbouropoulos as “an equal political interlocutor,” while accusing Mitsotakis of losing influence over MPs and supporters.
The Greek electorate will judge us, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said about his government’s work, during a plenary on a vote of confidence in parliament on Friday evening in which he focused on criticism of New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis as representing the interests of an elite minority.
“Greece of the many and Greece of the elite are two realities that cannot make peace with each other, they cannot be reconciled,” Tsipras told the New Democracy leader. He added that he was not mocking his class, “but I am judging your politics and your stances, which represent the interests of a powerful majority in this country, the majority of wealth.”
He said, as an example, “You charge 5 euros for admission to hospitals for the many, and at the same time you give away 241 million euros from returns of pharmaceutical companies in rebates – therefore, you relieve the few. We are doing exactly the opposite.”
“Mr. Mitsotakis, you stand for Greece of the few and privileged, for Greece of the elite. We are for the Greece of the many,” the premier reiterated.
The PM also accused the main opposition leader of trying to deflect debate from the crucial issues relating to the Greek people’s daily lives and from his government’ achievements in order to focus on issues such as turning the elections into live-or-die political arena.
Referring to attacks against his father, the SYRIZA leader said Mitsotakis only offered “one half of an apology” for a photograph shown by New Democracy MEP Manolis Kefalogiannis on media, purporting to show Tsipras’ father next to a Greek junta official. Kefalogiannis later apologised saying the photograph was fake, but the prime minister insisted that the ND leader did not apologize about his own statements on Wednesday, the opening day of a three-day debate.
Tsipras said that he would focus instead on “speaking about what I believe people want to hear, which is the needs of the many, and policies that will take many Greeks out of the crisis.”
On the issue of repeated furloughs granted by jail review boards to convincted November 17 terrorist Dimitris Koufodinas, the prime minister said ND had allowed another convicted terrorist, Christodoulos Xiros, to take furloughs and then go missing, under the same law.
Charging him with avoiding a debate on policy “like the devil avoids incense,” Tsipras said that “the Greek people will send a loud and strong message to the elite on May 26 as well as to the arrogant individuals who believe that the desire for rule is enough to justify the means.”
“SYRIZA is not a flare, it will not go out, and it will win the next elections,” the prime minister asserted.
The struggle against inequality is not the Left’s privilege, said main opposition New Democracy party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday, during a debate leading up to a vote of confidence in the government.
“The SYRIZA government will have to, at some point, create capital for the many,” said Mitsotakis, “yet all they have done so far is perpetuate misery.”
Mitsotakis then referred to Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis, against whom he filed a motion of censure on Monday. If Polakis had been disciplined by Tsipras or had recalled his own slander, Mitsotakis said, “none of this would have happened.”
Mitsotakis then underlined how he regrets the fact that New Democracy’s MEP Manolis Kefalogiannis appeared on live television to show photographs purporting to be of Alexis Tsipras’ father with Greece’s military junta leaders. Kefalogiannis later apologised.
The ND leader then said that the European Parliament elections will be a vote of disapproval “for the worst government this country has known since the end of the military junta in 1974,” and “a vote of support for New Democracy.’
“You have already turned the European Parliament elections ballot into a referendum for your government,” said Mitsotakis, and predicted that the result of the Euro-elections will be a defeat for SYRIZA, which will in turn lead the ruling party, “to call for a snap national vote.”
Greece’s national elections are scheduled at the end of the government’s full four-year term in October 2019.
KOTZIAS – KAMMENOS
Former foreign minister Nikos Kotzias claimed Friday that the emails presented in Parliament by former defense minister Panos Kammenos as evidence that Kotzias had favored a specific company in a tender for issuing visas were either forged or hacked by secret services.
Kammenos last month presented MPs with a batch of emails on the tender he claimed were exchanged between Foreign Ministry staff.
Questioning the provenance of Kammenos’ “evidence,” Kotzias said that experts had advised him that “only hackers from [National Intelligence Service] EYP or the Russian secret services, maybe the Chinese,” were capable of this kind of interception.