The unity of the coalition appears to have been preserved for the time being after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras bought himself a couple of days on Wednesday to decided whether to accept coalition partner and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos’s demand that Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas be sacked.
Kammenos called for Mouzalas to be dismissed after he referred to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) simply as “Macedonia” in an interview with Skai TV that was broadcast on Tuesday night.
The Independent Greeks leader first made the demand via Twitter late on Tuesday but then repeated it on Mega TV early on Wednesday before a lunchtime meeting with Tsipras despite the fact that the migration policy minister had issued an apology for his “slip-up.” On exiting the talks, Kammenos said his party continued to support the coalition with SYRIZA but had lost confidence in Mouzalas, who has a key role in managing the effort to deal with the refugee crisis.
Tsipras is said to have asked Kammenos to give him some time to consider the matter and pointed out that Mouzalas was already in Brussels for meetings ahead of the European Union-Turkey summit on refugees that is due to begin on Thursday. Government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said during a press briefing that a decision on Mouzalas’s future would be taken after the summit.
It is not clear if Kammenos’s insistence on Mouzalas’s removal is driven by his staunch nationalist stance, the result of his personal clashes with the minister over the army’s role in preparing facilities for refugees, or whether the Independent Greeks leader wants to distance himself from SYRIZA in order to keep open the option of leaving the coalition in the near future.
Kammenos is due to preside over a meeting of his party’s parliamentary group on Thursday to discuss the issue. One of his MPs, Constantinos Zouraris, said on Wednesday that he disagreed with the call for Mouzalas to step down.
Centrist To Potami also expressed its opposition to demands for the minister’s resignation. PASOK was critical of Mouzalas’s comment but stopped short of saying that he should leave his post.
In contrast, New Democracy was the first to propose his resignation on Tuesday and repeated the calls on Wednesday. Conservative leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis claimed that Mouzalas should be dismissed for the dire state of the Idomeni refugee camp as well as his comment regarding Greece’s northern neighbor.