‘Teflon Tsipras’ Likely to Survive Greek Confidence Vote Wednesday

(Bloomberg) -- Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who’s ridden out a disastrous referendum, confidence votes, mutiny by his back-benchers and even the uproar that followed a deadly wildfire, is all set to show -- yet again -- that he’s a survivor.

The 44-year-old, who took over as premier at the height of the Greek financial crisis, faces a new confidence motion in parliament today, after his coalition partner withdrew support over a deal with the Republic of Macedonia to resolve a dispute about its name. The vote is set for late Wednesday.

Tsipras needs 151 votes in Greece’s 300-seat chamber to assure his government’s survival. With his Syriza party’s 145 seats, plus four likely votes from rebel members of his ex-coalition partner and two other lawmakers, Tsipras is likely to have the numbers, barely, to keep his administration going. The premier will carry the day, said Nikos Mouzelis, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics.

“It looks like Alexis Tsipras will win,” Mouzelis said. “The fact that the prime minister has managed to win a number of previous votes shows his strengths and also shows that (his party) Syriza is, and will remain, one of the two main poles of our political system.”

Regardless of the vote’s outcome, Tsipras will at some point need to call new elections since his term expires in September. Still, the latest political developments add to more than a decade of turmoil in Greece -- the epicenter of the European debt crisis. The tumultuous period has wiped out about a quarter of the country’s economy and pushed its banking industry to the brink. Markets are keeping an eye on the vote, with the risk of an early election likely to weigh on bank stocks.

Success Story?

Even if he wins the vote, Tsipras may find that governing without an actual majority is untenable, leading to a new vote, possibly in May, when European and local government elections are already scheduled. Tsipras has said that if he fails to garner enough support, he won’t call a new election before the government passes legislation including protections for homeowners and a higher minimum wage.

Political stability in Greece, which ended its third and final international bailout in August, is critical to Europe’s ability to cast the country as something resembling a success story. The economy remains fragile and a minority government would struggle to get parliamentary approval for needed reforms, including privatizations.

If and when he does call an election, Tsipras’s winning streak may end. Polls show that Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s New Democracy would be the winner in such a contest. It is unclear, however, whether Mitsotakis can secure the majority needed to form a government without having to seek alliances.

With parliament next year set to choose a new president -- which requires a super-majority of 180 votes -- the risk of a new political crisis and fresh elections is high.

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