If we were talking about a basketball or soccer team, the term “good chemistry” would be just fine. It’s part of the sports lexicon, after all. When we’re talking about the essential functioning of the Greek coalition government, however, resorting to the term “good chemistry” to describe the relationship between the leaders of the two parties is nothing short of a tactical maneuver. It is a dribble that doesn’t bring you any closer to your opponent’s net or goalpost – simply back to stubborn reality.
It appears that the government spokesman was ignorant of certain aspects of this stubborn reality when he recently hailed the “good chemistry” between leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his coalition partner and Defense Minster Panos Kammenos, leader of the right-wing nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL). Of course there was little doubt of this: The entire country witnessed it when the SYRIZA chief invited his ANEL counterpart onto the victory podium after the elections of September 2015 outside Athens University. It was a scene that went far beyond a show of pragmatism; it was a celebration of cynicism.
To begin with, no matter how well the two leaders get along, as spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos assured us – as did Tsipras himself awhile back – this does not negate the fact that the two parties are serious ideological adversaries.
The distance that separates the two partners has been revealed in all its grandeur by the kerfuffle prompted by Greece’s name talks with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). This division is sapping the country’s negotiatory and diplomatic capital, while also presenting a top-rate opportunity for sundry political opportunists.
I can’t help but wonder how the remaining true leftists in SYRIZA reacted to the sight of almost the entire parliamentary group of ANEL, their allies, embracing the cries of “Long live the military” heard at the Thessaloniki rally earlier this month to protest the use of “Macedonia” in any possible solution; or how they viewed the support expressed by members of ANEL for the sexist and militaristic slogans used by many of the speakers at the event and their adoption of the aggressive rhetoric that we have come to consider an expression of true patriotism. And what of the fact that ANEL shares such perfect chemistry with any far-right group that invokes the ancient past?
I can only imagine that they felt as others did when they heard that Mikis Theodorakis, the composer and symbol of left-wing resistance, is giving his endorsement to the Athens installment of the rally this Sunday.