FYROM name deal fuels snap election scenarios in Greece


Tsipras Kammenos

by Aggelos Skordas

The leftist SYRIZA-led coalition government in Greece was left with a thin and fragile majority on Tuesday as yet another MP of the junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) announced his departure from the nationalist party in light of the strong reactions on the agreement reached between Greece and FYROM over the name “North Macedonia.” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ government now holds only 152 seats in the 300-seat Parliament and questions arise over the coalition’s ability to see its four-year term through.

The last to have abandoned the parliamentary group of ANEL and declared himself independent was Giorgos Lazaridis who was among those opposing the so called “Prespa agreement” signed by the Foreign Ministers of Greece and FYROM, Nikos Kotzias and Nikola Dimitrov respectively. As Lazaridis indicated, he had received threats demanding that he vote down the government in the recent no-confidence motion tabled by main opposition New Democracy, but he refused.

In his resignation letter to Parliament, Speaker Nikos Voutsis, the former ANEL MP highlighted that the Thessaloniki electoral district he represents is profoundly against the accord and he could not bear the weight of a compromise with the agreed name “North Macedonia”. “ANEL has, from its inception, been against any use of the term ‘Macedonia’ by neighbours”, he added.

His departure left ANEL with just seven MPs, while SYRIZA has 145 and has refueled snap election scenarios. Since his election in 2015, this is the slimmest majority for Tsipras who has a series of crucial economic reforms pending the approval of the Parliament.

Lazaridis’s resignation comes only days after ANEL lost yet another MP who also opposed the compromise with the neighbouring former Yugoslav republic. Dimitris Kammenos was ousted by the party’s leader and National Defense Minister Panos Kammenos (no relation between the two) after he voted against the government in the no-confidence motion on June 16. The party’s spokeswoman Madalena Papadopoulou and no less than three provincial party officials also abandoned ANEL due to their disagreement with the naming accord.

Tsipras: Coalition “too hard to die”

Commenting on the development while exiting a meeting with Britain’s counterpart Teresa May on Tuesday afternoon, Tsipras appeared confident that the government’s cohesion is not threatened by Lazaridis departure. He characteristically said that the coalition is “too hard to die”.

Earlier, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos expressed his certainty that the government’s majority remains “completely solid” and is not under threat after the departure of Lazaridis. “We continue with absolute security on the path of a final and irrevocable exit from the memorandum. There is no reason for concern,” he said in an interview with “To kokkino” radio, adding that he is surprised by the timing of Lazaridis’ resignation from ANEL: “The country has made a huge step towards the exit from memorandum surveillance and only a few days after the Eurogroup’s historic decision. Therefore, I believe more explanations should be provided by Mr. Lazaridis than those given in his letter.”

However, in an interview with Skai TV on Tuesday morning, D. Kammenos revealed that coalition partners Tsipras and P. Kammenos intend to finally call early elections as they see their popularity shrinking after the deal with Skopje. Political opponents accuse the Greek Premier of making too many concessions that are harmful for the country’s interests.

The name deal paves the way for FYROM to join both the European Union and NATO, after years of isolation due to the open issue, which led Greece veto its efforts to enter accession talks.

Nevertheless, criticism on the accord is also high in Skopje where -despite the Parliament’s initial approval- nationalist President Gjorge Ivanov has decided not to sign the bill for its ratification. Under the country’s Constitution, in case of a presidential veto, the agreement is returned to Parliament, where it may be voted by a simple majority. In this case, the bill is once again sent to the President, whom the Constitution obliges to sign it.

GCT Team

This article was researched and written by a GCT team member.