With disagreements within the coalition over the Macedonia name deal intensifying, the leftist-led government is struggling to strike a delicate balance between upholding the agreement and containing the opposition from its junior partner, the nationalist populist Independent Greeks (ANEL).
The growing cracks in the coalition were in full view on Tuesday morning at the press conference called by ANEL leader Panos Kammenos, who rejected the name deal as “bad,” saying he will try to block it.
Kammenos, who is also Greece’s defense minister, reiterated that the deal must pass through Parliament with an enhanced majority of 180 in the 300-seat House. Otherwise, he said, the Greek people must decide.
“When I say the people should be asked, that happens via a referendum or elections,” he said.
On Sunday, Kammenos also said his party may withdraw from the coalition over the issue “when the time comes.”
However, in an apparent contradiction, he said late on Tuesday that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has his full support.
But there were more mixed signals after the government hinted on Tuesday that it could accept an enhanced majority for the deal’s ratification.
However, at the same time, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias defended the deal he struck with his counterpart in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Nikola Dimitrov, emphasizing that it should not require an enhanced majority.
A close aide to the prime minister said on Tuesday that the government has no reason at the present to clash with Kammenos as, it said, it will take months before the deal is ready to go to Parliament.
The contradictory statements emanating from the government were latched onto by conservative New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who reiterated on Tuesday in a tweet that it was on its way out.
“Yesterday I said Mr Tsipras is a prime minister on the way out. The pathetic appearance today of [Tsipras’s] co-governor, Mr Kammenos, has absolutely confirmed that,” he wrote.
“All Mr Tsipras has to do now is confirm a date for elections,” he added.