Sweeping reshuffle in view – Which ministers' chairs are creaking

Ω Spyros Gkoutzanis
Sweeping reshuffle in view - Which ministers' chairs are creaking, Spyros Gkotzanis

As the deadlocks of the Mitsotakis government intensify, the scenarios are increasing of a sweeping reshuffle with the option of early elections are looming on the horizon, as soon as the epidemiological conditions allow it. It is now clear that the executive branch has lost control of the pandemic and is resorting to bans and repressive measures, after failing to prevent an increase in cases.

But what is crucial for the government are national issues. The policy of appeasement towards Turkey, as predicted, had the opposite effect: it emboldened Erdogan, who now - as Stavros Lygeros has noted - is planning drilling outside Kastellorizo. The outcome for the government, at best, will be negotiations with Turkey, which of course will not be limited to the delimitation of maritime zones, but will be extended to the issues on the Turkish agenda.

This perspective is already creating shocks within the ruling New Democracy party with the question being "who will sign an agreement that will include conceding sovereign rights?". The question, which is based on a reading of possible developments in Greek-Turkish relations media within the incumbency of the current government and not with a horizon of five years, provokes scenarios of political developments and cooperation governments.

At the same time, the worst for the Mitsotakis government is coming in terms of the economy as the citizens' means have been exhausted and the financial aid to the weaker and to the middle classes is far from what the government propaganda is spreading. According to sources in the Ministry of Finance, despite the allocation of resources since last March, about 1,000,000 citizens have been left without coverage, or assistance.

After all, the dead end can be seen from the forecast of the financial staff for a recession of 7.5% - which of course will be higher when the data are finalized next Spring - but also for a recovery in 2021 of 5%, which is also not confirmed by the real data. It is obvious that the government in this field is also buying time by cultivating false optimism.

An executive state collapse and impending reshuffle

The evolution of the pandemic demonstrated the managerial weaknesses of the executive state that disguise this through the convenient rhetoric of superiority over the previous SYRIZA government. A combination of ideological obsession with neoliberal prescriptions and unfortunate debacles, such as giving students king-size masks, which show administrative inadequacy, have the effect of reducing the government's popularity and acceptance rates as well as the rhetoric concerning a superiority over SYRIZA despite what the sources close to the PM say that it is steadfastly at two double-digit percentages. However, it is obvious beyond the polls that the government has entered a gray zone.

The second wave of the pandemic has devalued a number of ministers who now feel that their days are counting down. Among the party's deputies, the daily debate is when Kyriakos Mitsotakis will make the "sweeping reshuffle", who will leave and, especially, who will join the next government. The reshuffle is now set for November and will reportedly be "parliamentary", according to sources close to the PM, meaning more members of the parliamentary group will enter the government.

After all, there is intense dissatisfaction among MPs and party officials because the first ND government has many extra-parliamentary technocrats with a modernizing political profile. As MPs and party officials say "they [technocrats] did not win the elections, nor will they give the next political battle, whenever it happens".

Another characterization given to the impending reshuffle is that it will be "structural" and bring about changes in the failed executive state. As circles around the Maximos Palace (the PMs office) say, "it would perform better in normal political conditions and not in conditions of a prolonged triple crisis". It is interesting that in the last cabinet, Kyriakos Mitsotakis blamed the ministers for the failures of the executive state.

Parliamentary government and ministers at risk

It is considered certain that the prime minister in the next reshuffle will maintain geographical balances. Northern Greece, Western Macedonia and Thessaloniki are under-represented in the current government, as are Western Greece, the prefectures of Achaia, Ilia and Messinia. Also, electoral districts of Attica such as the first and the second district of Piraeus where the names of the Karamanlis affiliate Kostas Katsafados (A 'Piraeus) and the Samaras-affiliate Dimitris Markopoulos (B' Piraeus) have come up for deputy ministerships.

On the level of persons, the climate is heavy even inside the PM's office for a number of prominent ministers. The first is Adonis Georgiadis, whom the prime minister condemned in a most symbolic way. Last Monday at an event for Microsoft, Kyriakos Mitsotakis thanked the Deputy Minister of Development, Nikos Papathanasis and his collaborator - and rising political personage - Patelis.

Whether he will keep Mr. Georgiadis in a lower ministry is a question. However, Mr. Georgiadis is now following his own agenda through his appearances, while turning against the students, he increases the dissatisfaction of the PM, who of course does not want to open a front with the younger generation.

The fate of Niki Kerameos is also questionable. In Maximou, several failures have been pointed out with the opening of the schools, while what also goes against her is that she has bad relations with her deputy ministers but also with most of the ministers who "told on" her in the last cabinet. Everyone is betting that the poorly performing ministers of Culture, Lina Mendoni, of Tourism, Haris Theocharis, of Labor, Giannis Vroutsis, will be left out of the government. The negative percentages collected in the latest "Prorata" poll point in this direction.

The question is the fate of Christos Staikouras after the motion of censure filed against him by SYRIZA. The PM's office had recently sprung leaks against the Minister of Finance - that he does not cooperate and has a problem with the other ministers - while his frictions with the leadership of the executive state were known. However, changing him a month after the motion to censure and the party support offered him is an oxymoron.

The insistence of Dimitris Avramopoulos - which he cultivates through his domestic and international contacts and with selective leaks to the media - to enter the government in the place of Nikos Dendias is also interesting. His friends say that in the near future the Greek-Turkish escalation will need an experienced minister with international contacts. However, Kyriakos Mitsotakis does not seem to be convinced that he does not want a strong player at his feet.

Elections before SYRIZA comes around

Apart from the geographical balances in the upcoming reshuffle, Kyriakos Mitsotakis will also maintain internal party balances. In fact, as those allied with former PM Samaras are already represented and the "quota" will be maintained, it is considered that he give office to either Theodoros Roussopoulos, or Euripides Stylianidis, or both, who refer to the disbanded Karamanlis wing.

In any case, the reshuffle is the prerogative of the prime minister. Once the information is confirmed, Kyriakos Mitsotakis will send the message that he is abandoning experimentation with the technocratic government - which, after all, was not justified by the results - and returning to the classical logic of parliamentary governments. In this direction there are argumentsshowing that election scenarios for around the end of Spring have returned, if the pandemic retreats and allows it.

The 2 + 4 scenario was never abandoned. It is now being reinforced by the rapid deterioration of the government. Given the negative development of the Greek-Turksish confrontation, the course until the end of the four years is doubtful. An additional reason that never left the minds of those who write such scenarios is "to finish with SYRIZA and Alexis Tsipras". If the elections are held soon, then SYRIZA will not have had time to hold its congress and reorganize. They believe that if ND wins another election, SYRIZA will be in a whirlwind and Alexis Tsipras will not be able to remain a leader, especially if he gets less than 32% in the elections.

Somehow, one pole of the system, New Democracy, will be able to dominate without hindrance for a long time to come, since the wider area of ​​the center-left will be looking for expression through some political body. They estimate that the "internal problems of SYRIZA and the questioning of Tsipras' policy" favor them in these plans, which of course the friendly media takes care to increase.

Of course, even in this scenario, not everything is rosy. The biggest difficulty is that the next elections will be held by simple proportional representation. Re-election will be needed, so the country will not head to a misadventure. The scenario, however, is reinforced from the perspective of Greek-Turksish relations. A government that has received the mandate will have the popular legitimacy to proceed with the "painful compromise".

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