After weeks of back and forth, rumour and counter-rumour, it appears that the troika is due to return to Greece to bring its latest review of the adjustment program to a delayed conclusion. The completion of the review, though, is just one piece of the Greek jigsaw that has to fall into place over the coming months.
A look at recent opinion polls would tell you that the Greek government is under pressure going into the local and European Parliament elections in May but New Democracy and PASOK’s anxiety is also evident from the fact that the two parties are altering the rules ahead of the European vote in the hope they will reap the rewards.
A Council of State ruling in January looks to have blown a 500-million-euro hole in the government’s fiscal plans. Now a Supreme Court verdict is threatening to create an even bigger shortfall in Greece’s public finances.
SYRIZA stole a march on its political opponents recently by naming its candidates for May’s local elections ahead of rival parties but the move is threatening to backfire due to controversy over some of the appointments.
The date for what is certain to prove one of this year’s watershed moments has been set: the European Parliament elections and the second round of voting in Greece’s local polls will take place on May 25.
The decision on the release of the next bailout tranche for Greece, originally due for the final quarter of 2013, now looks likely to be taken in March, with the government in Athens still having much ground to cover in terms of structural reforms.
Two opinion polls on Sunday gave SYRIZA a lead over New Democracy, making it four surveys in a week that have placed the leftists in pole position with four months left until Greeks vote in local and European Parliament elections.
A new round of talks with the troika is pending so the last thing the Greek government needed at the moment was a court decision forcing it to return hundreds of millions of euros to civil servants, thereby forcing the Finance Ministry to find the equivalent savings elsewhere.
For some SYRIZA supporters it was they key to a leftist government succeeding but now the prospect of Alexis Tsipras coming to power and repudiating a large chunk of Greece's debt has been played down, by SYRIZA itself.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras pledged on Wednesday during his speech at the European Parliament that his government would see out its four-year term and general elections would not be held until 2016. SYRIZA, however, has different ideas.