ATHENS – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in damage control after revelations that a rival politician and financial journalist had their phones tapped, is girding for a debate in Parliament and readying changes to the National Intelligence Service (EYP) that reportedly brought surveillance.
With most Greeks at their islands or villages during the August heat, there’s been a lull in the story but lawmakers will return early from summer recess and on Aug. 22 start taking up the cases.
Those involve the tapping of the phones of PASOK Socialist leader Nikos Androulakis, widening a breach with Mitsotakis’ New Democracy government, and reporter Thanasis Koukakis, who the New York Times said was looking into the Premier’s dealings with big business.
Mitsotakis and his party are about to go into a prolonged pre-election campaign period after he ruled out snap polls and said he would serve out his four-year term into the 2023 scheduled vote.
PASOK, which has doubled its popularity around 14 percent under Androulakis – who is also a Member of the European Parliament – could be a deciding factor in a coalition as a change in election laws eliminated a 50-seat bonus in Parliament for whomever comes first.
That raises the likelihood of successive elections unless the winner reaches out to another party to form a government which could put Androulakis in the driver’s seat if Mitsotakis wins and PASOK seeks concessions – if they’re talking.
That change was brought by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, ostensibly to put them in line to join a coalition with their mortal rivals to get back into some semblance of power if Mitsotakis wins again.
In a report, the newspaper Kathimerini – which leans toward the Conservatives – said Mitsotakis’ advisors believe he can withstand the political fallout of the scandal unless there are more revelations.
Former EYP chief Panagiotis Kontoleon – who, with Mitsotakis’ General-Secretary and nephew Dimitris Grigoriadis – was forced to step down after reportedly not telling the Prime Minister about the surveillance, also told a parliamentary committee that 15,700 others have their phones tapped.
They weren’t identified and while Mitsotakis said the surveillance of Androulakis was legal, it was wrong, but he wouldn’t talk about Koukakis, whose case hadn’t been big news in Greece until the Androulakis affair.
The paper said the government has to convince voters that Mitsotakis didn’t know about the bugging that Kontoleon said was done in the national interest and at the request of Armenian and Ukrainian intelligence, which denied it.
Mitsotakis, the paper said, is working on a new structure for EYP which he put under his direct control under one of his first acts when ousting SYRIZA in July, 2019 snap elections.
He didn’t explain why then that he wasn’t informed as the head of EYP was supposed to report to him but allegedly didn’t, leaving Mitsotakis in the dark and angry about being left out of the loop.
Among more reforms that SYRIZA said would still keep EYP under Mitsotakis’ thumb and not transparent, is safeguarding other politicians from surveillance unless it’s in the national interest to monitor them, as happened with the disbanded neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party whose former leaders and dozens of members were jailed for running a criminal gang.
Other moves include expanding the number of people who know the identity of the person being monitored. Until now, only the EYP chief and a prosecutor had knowledge of the target of any legal wiretapping, the report also noted.