Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos has accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. With no single group of the Greek parliament able to form a new government, President of the Supreme Court Vassiliki Thanou-Christofilou has been named to act as Prime Minister till the mid-term elections on Sept 20 2015.
Greece is a parliamentary republic according to the Constitution adopted in 1975 and amended in 1986 and 2001. So, its president has a limited spectrum of powers. One of them is the right to dissolve the parliament. But the Constitution of Greece has one important nuance – the role of the president (the current one, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, represents the country’s strongest right-of-center force, New Democracy Party) is not just to dissolve the parliament and to appoint mid-term parliamentary elections. Even though Tsipras (the Coalition of the Radical Left SYRIZA) has resigned on his own initiative, Pavlopoulos has the right to choose - to dissolve the parliament or not.
As we can see, Pavlopoulos has acted contrary to Tispras’s expectations and has decided to try not to dissolve. For this purpose, he invited the leader of New Democracy Party Vangelis Meimarakis to his residency and gave him a mandate for forming the new government. In fact, Meimarakis was given three days to negotiate with the other groups of the Greek parliament and to form a majority. New Democracy is the second biggest parliamentary force after SYRIZA. They have as many as 76 seats, but this is all they have. The Communists with 15 seats and the Nationalists from Golden Dawn Party with 17 seats will hardly agree to join them. With SYRIZA having 124 seats, New Democracy needs at least 151 votes to push its candidate and to form a new government. Hypothetically, it could rely on a wider coalition of parliamentary groups – unlike SYRIZA, who relied mostly on their own MPs. But a few hours proved to be enough for Meimarakis to see that this is impossible.
Hence, the resignation of Tsipras has shown that the president and the prime minister have different plans on the current parliament. Tsipras wants it to be dissolved, while Pavlopoulos wants to keep it and to push his men into the government.
According to article 41 of the Constitution, Pavlopoulos has the right to dissolve the parliament in the following cases:
- if two consecutive governments resign or face a vote of non-confidence;
- if the initiative to dissolve the parliament comes from the government – as was the case with Tsipras;
- if all parliamentary groups fail to form a new government.
But how then to solve the problem of continuity of government? The Constitution says that if no government is formed, power goes into the hands of a government of national unity: the president should convoke the leaders of all parliamentary parties and should instruct them to form a government representing all the groups. In present-day Greece, this scenario is not practicable as the forces constituting the Greek parliament have very different attitudes towards their country’s future.
But if no government of national unity is formed, then each parliamentary group gets a chance to form its own government. Vassiliki Thanou-Christofilou has been given this chance. But her government will not live for long as she has only time till the mid-term elections.
So, on Sept 20, 2016, Greece will hold mid-term parliamentary elections. This will be the second mid-term vote in 2015. As you may remember, in Dec 2014 former President Karolos Papoulias dissolved the parliament on the initiative of his right-of-center Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (New Democracy).
So, we can see that parliamentary republics like Greece are kind of programmed political instability. And so, they are doomed to go through constant government changes and mid-term parliamentary elections.
Sergey Slobodchuk, political advisor, specially for EADaily