Amid Political Tension, Tsipras Calls For Constitution Changes

Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras says he's not to blame for reneging on anti-austerity promises

ATHENS – Trying to rebound from a political defeat over proposed election law changes, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras now wants voters to have a hand in changing the Greek Constitution.

Tsipras was to unveil his proposals the night of July 25 in a speech from the garden of the Presidential Mansion.

On July 24, he met with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and rival party leaders in the Presidential gardens for a function marking the anniversary of the restoration of parliamentary democracy in Greece following the fall of the military dictatorship.

While they put on a public face of unity over the ceremony, Kathimerini said tension was running high after Parliament last week failed to give Tsipras a super-majority he needed to immediately eliminate a 50-seat bonus for the winners of Greek elections. That will take place after the next elections instead.

Among the changes he wants is to let voters elect Greece’s symbolic, powerless President and for more referenda in government policy-making.

Tsipras used the 42nd anniversary of the end of the junta to urge open dialogue about proposed Constitutional changes.

“The 24th of July is a milestone for democracy,” he said. “A new Constitution that will mark the new post-Junta period and will lead to a new Greece: the Greece of 2021,” he said, the Athens News Agency reported.

In particular, the prime minister pointed out in his message that “the anniversary of the new regime is first of all a day of honour and respect to all those who resisted the dictatorship: the thousands of political prisoners in the seven year period of 1967-1974, to all who in any way and any means defended democracy and freedom in our country and, of course, first and foremost, to the heroes who gave their lives in the struggle for democracy, popular sovereignty and social justice in our country.”

He also stressed that “our historical duty towards these people is the constant expansion and consolidation of democracy in our country” adding that the “democratic institutions and constitutional freedoms are priceless and we have to respect them and protect them.”

The changes strengthen the largely ceremonial presidency somewhat and limit lawmakers’ consecutive terms to 8 years.

Tsipras announced that the revision process would start with a wide consultation in all municipalities, a process not envisaged by the Constitution itself. Normally, revisions of the Constitution are handled only by the Parliament.

The revised constitution would enshrine proportional representation, ban the privatization of water and electricity, call for wages to be determined solely through collective bargaining and allow the Greek President a greater say in challenging the constitutionality of laws.

The revision proposals envisage that agreements, such as the Greek bailout deals, would have to be approved in referendums.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)