ATHENS – Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is set to replace the outgoing President and top prosecutor of Greece’s Supreme Court when their terms end a week before the country’s July 7 general elections..
That has drawn flak from the poll-leading major opposition New Democracy that’s poised to take power unless Tsipras makes a remarkable rebound after his party’s candidates for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament took a drubbing in May 26 elections.
The Conservatives leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, doesn’t want the officials replaced until after the elections so that he can make the new choices if he wins. New Democracy has been complaining that Tsipras has been trying to interfere with the judiciary.
With SYRIZA losing the May 26 elections by 9.5 percent, Tsipras nonetheless said he’s confident he will win the general elections but didn’t explain why if that was the case he wants to replace the officials before the July 7 elections.
Mitsotakis argued that Tsipras doesn’t have the moral or political legitimacy to make the changes on the high court although it’s in the Premier’s legal right to do so if he wants, despite the outcry.
Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, who said the loss on May 26 “wasn’t a strategic defeat” because SYRIZA finished second, said the Premier is within his rights to replace Supreme Court President Vasilios Peppas and prosecutor Xeni Dimitriou – who will step down on June 30 – even though the rivals will be nearing the end of a campaign.
The Cabinet is already set to begin going over likely replacement candidates, sources who weren’t named told Kathimerini. The law requires candidate go before the Parliament’s Committee on Institutions and Transparency, but that’s up to Tsipras and his ministers.
Government officials said the replacement process was underway before Tsipras called the snap elections after he repeatedly said he would last out his term until they were required to be held, by October.
A similar procedure was also launched to select three vice presidents at the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court. Government officials said if the replacements aren’t made that the Supreme Court will be leaderless until after the elections although critics said the appointments are traditionally made in July anyway.
The government took several months to appoint the President of the Council of State, Nikos Sakellariou, who was sworn in in October 2015 after the post was vacated in June.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)