The fragile balance in the ruling coalition has become more precarious following last Friday’s approval by the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) of the Prespes name deal, which puts the ball in Greece’s court.
Following FYROM Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s success in his country’s Parliament – the first in a series of three votes required for the deal to be ratified – the focus now shifts to the Greek government, which must also secure approval when the agreement comes to the House here, probably early next year.
However in Greece, it is not just the political opposition that opposes the deal, but the junior coalition partner as well. The differentiation in the stances of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos were clear in their reactions to the vote outcome in Skopje. Tsipras described the vote as “a big step toward our common success” in a post on Twitter, while Kammenos implied that opposition MPs in Skopje had been paid off. “Who would have thought that in a Europe of values and democracy those who do not vote according to instructions are jailed, and those who comply get a 2 million euro bonus in black money,” he wrote on Twitter.
Tsipras and Kammenos had agreed to put off further discussions of the Prespes name deal until March. However, in light of recent developments, that conversation is likely to happen sooner, even though the vote in Greece’s Parliament is not expected until February.
In a meeting early last week the two men reportedly discussed the shifting balance in the coalition amid reports that three ANEL MPs are considering breaking ranks with Kammenos and backing the name deal.
Despite the differences of opinion, Tsipras seems committed to preserving his alliance with Kammenos for now, preferring to accept the resignation of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias with whom Kammenos clashed during a cabinet meeting last week than to face a standoff with his coalition partner.
The political upheaval has reignited speculation of early elections in May.
New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday called for snap polls, before the Prespes deal comes to MPs, saying it was the only way to scupper the contentious agreement.