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ATHENS — A persistent espionage scandal has upended the political landscape in Greece and fueled doubts that Greece could form a stable government after the next elections.
The controversy began last month when the government admitted to tapping an opposition leader’s phone. What followed was a labyrinthine tale of controversial spyware being planted into the phones of a rapidly expanding network of politicians and journalists.
However, the government has not claimed a link to these broader incidents, nor has it claimed knowledge. And after sacking two senior government officials, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis now holds a firm position and insists he must keep his course as economic storm clouds roll in.
“I’m not going to be an overseer of political unrest,” Mitsotakis said Saturday night at an annual fair in the city north of Thessaloniki, Greece’s biggest annual political event. Lead the country to safety until the end of the
But the public is divided on whether they want to see Mitsutaki stay on until then. rice field. And with elections due within the next nine months, Mitsotakis’ potential coalition partners are about to jump into the crisis.
It all hinges on the potential for more spy plots to emerge. In recent weeks, new allegations have already dripped consistently in the Greek press.
Still, Mitsotakis has reason to believe that he and his center-right New Democratic Party could emerge relatively unscathed. While some party members have complained about the exposure, the new democracy itself hasn’t suffered in the polls.
Athanasios Diamantopoulos, an expert on Greek politics at Pantheon University, said: “Mitsotakis didn’t go to the elections in the autumn when the tourist season was good, but in the spring after a very difficult winter. I promised not to,” he said. “By then, reports of wiretapping will not subside, but there will be so many financial problems that this will be the main bet.”
Crack from inside
The protracted scandal was not without consequences.
For starters, there have been resignations involving one of Mitsotakis’ top aides and his intelligence chief. These were announced after the government admitted that it allowed wiretapping of Nikos Androulakis, MEP MEP, who heads the third-largest party in the Greek parliament, the centre-left Pasok.
To make matters worse, an intrusive spyware known as Predator was also found in the phones of journalists and lawmakers from the main opposition left-wing Syriza, as well as the phones of Andorourakis. The government denies any link to these wiretappings.
Still, there are lingering questions about what exactly happened. Mitsotakis declined to explain why his political opponents had been spied on, citing national security concerns.
The silence unsettled some New Democrats.
“In such situations, catharsis can only occur when there is complete clarification,” said Kostas Karamanlis, the former prime minister of Greece and head of the new democracy, during a recent visit to Crete. “It is not only undemocratic and illegal that these events were caused by the initiative of the government, but it goes far beyond the morbid imagination and political nonsense.” ,Unthinkable.”
The grievances spilled over into Congress, where New Democrats and Vice Speaker of the House Nikitas Kakhlamanis said: be against The clause he and the ruling party passed stripped citizens of their ability to know if they were under surveillance. Pasok also initially supported the bill.
Even the new democratic parliamentarian Konstantinos Tsavaras branded The Greek media suffered a “disgrace” for not covering the scandal further.
“The functioning of the constitution has been seriously damaged and the prime minister must rise to the occasion,” said Tzavaras, one of the party’s representatives in a parliamentary inquiry into the matter.
Despite public rebuke, outright rebellion from within the party remains unlikely – the disaffected New Democracy figures have not increased in recent days.
To some political pundits in the country, Mitsotakis’ endurance is a symptom of the dysfunction of the Greek political system.
“If we were in a democracy, there would be no political instability,” said Nikos Marantzidis, a professor of political science at the University of Macedonia. “The prime minister had already resigned and the training of his successor would have begun.”
Marantzidis argued that Mitsotakis “identifies his personal future with the future of democracy and the country when he says it will be unstable if I resign.”
Mitsotakis refuted the idea on Sunday, stating: If not us, who? ”
focus on elections
Ultimately, Mr. Mitsotakis will spend the next few months trying to get his party together and navigate the ever-more complex elections that will have to take place by July next year and will take place in the spring. likely to spend on both
Until the spy revelations surfaced, New Democracy and Pasok were seen as headed toward forming a centrist coalition after the next elections.
Diamantopoulos, an expert on Greek politics at Pantheon University, said, “It is very difficult for Pasok voters to transition to a new democracy at present, but pressure on the party leadership to join a coalition is unlikely. Even harder.
Mitsotakis put the blame on Andrew Lakis himself, accusing him of running politics through surveillance.
Pasok’s leader claims to be in “discord” with his voters, saying, “I believe what happened helped Andrew Lakis follow a pre-determined line of discontinuity with the New Democracy.” ‘ said.
Greece’s next national elections will be based on proportional representation, making it nearly impossible for any party to secure a majority. Therefore, it is highly likely that the second election will be held under the system of giving bonus seats to the first party. But current polls show no party near an absolute majority, even with a second-round bonus.
Before the spy scandal, that reality fueled hopes that New Democracy and Pasok would be forced into a coalition. Now, with the two parties bickering, speculation is rampant about what kind of coalition might emerge from such a split moment.
Mitsotakis could be linked to nationalist Russophobia Greek solution Party. However, that would mean a U-turn for the prime minister, who calls himself a moderate and pro-American politician.
On Sunday, Mysotakis said he did not feel “very close” to a Greek solution but had not ruled out a potential alliance, saying he was “not ready to talk about what the options would be” if a coalition were to be called for. claimed. He also left the option of teaming up with certain lawmakers from various political parties to strengthen his position.
Surprisingly, according to political analysts in Athens, cooperation between the new democracy and Pasok is still under consideration, but realistically only in the absence of Prime Minister Mitsotakis. That’s not what Mitsotakis wants.
“Even in the case of a coalition government, the leader of the first party must be the prime minister,” he stressed Sunday.
Similarly, a large coalition between the New Democracy, Pasok and Syriza – the approach favored by Pasok – is likely to require new leadership within the New Democracy.
“This is possible, but not easy,” said Marantzidis, a professor of political science. ” only [Mitsotakis] Equating his personal future with the future of democracy and the country will have a negative impact on post-election developments.”
Mitsotakis himself warned of another possibility. A coalition that brings together all the center-left and left-wing opposition parties to form a government that omits the New Democracy, even if it ends first.
“This is going to be a political monster. I have to inform and warn people about this possibility,” Mitsutakis said.
polls are stable
Despite the rapidly changing political dynamics, last week’s poll showed limited damage to the government from the espionage scandal.
Polls show that the New Democracy has only fallen between 0.2 and 1.7 percentage points since the scandal erupted. Opposition parties Syriza and Pasok, on the other hand, were only 0.5 to 1 point apart.
Giorgos Arapoglou, general manager of the Pulse polling firm, said: “We’ve been surprised by the short-term response so far. Arapoglou said after the massive fires that killed 100 people in 2018, the government’s 2019 I remembered my first win in the polls before I lost power in 2014.
Ultimately, Arapoglow said the economy is usually the biggest factor in elections.recent votes back up his theory. In Marc’s survey, 84% of Greeks said they were concerned about inflation and an impending energy crisis this winter. Only 16% expressed concern about the detection of wiretapping.
Considering politics alone, however, the spy story seems looming large. His recent GPO poll showed that nearly 70% of his Greeks thought the case was a “very” or “fairly” important part of the current political scene. rice field. More than half of them, 59%, believed Mitsotakis was somehow responsible, but nearly as many said the incident had reduced trust in the government.
Some political analysts believe it’s only a matter of time before the issue catches up with the prime minister.
“Obviously the government’s strategy is to forget what’s going on,” Marantzidis said. “But in any case, Mitsotakis cannot avoid the truth any more than Nixon did.”