With speculation mounting that Greece could he heading for early polls in May, the ratification or not of the name deal by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is expected to determine the hot-button issue of the election campaign.
If FYROM’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev succeeds this week in securing the majority he needs to pass the deal in his country’s parliament, it will then come down to Greek lawmakers to approve the agreement in the early spring of 2019.
This scenario will render the name agreement signed between Greece and FYROM on the shores of Lake Prespes in June into the agenda-topping issue of the election – to the peril of the fragile coalition of leftist SYRIZA and the nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, which has pledged not to back the deal.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his aides are reportedly keeping a close eye on ANEL and its “unpredictable” leader, Panos Kammenos, who is also defense minister, even though Tsipras and Kammenos have reportedly agreed to defuse tensions and deny talk that ANEL will topple the government if the name deal comes to Greek Parliament.
Furthermore, Tsipras urged senior SYRIZA members at last week’s political council to desist from comments that could fuel divisions with ANEL.
Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, who signed the deal in June with his FYROM counterpart, Nikola Dimitrov, also appears prepared to brush off criticism emanating from ANEL.
However, government officials are still concerned as this moratorium of sorts remains extremely precarious given Kammenos’s erratic stance on the name deal.
Despite his frequent reassurances to Tsipras that they will revisit the Prespes agreement in March, pressure from the nationalist party’s base has forced him to routinely speak out against it.
Given this precarious situation, sources say that ruling SYRIZA would not be averse to “a velvet divorce” with ANEL in early 2019, as it believes that the government could survive a censure motion over the deal until May given the current political balance in the House.