NEWS

Greek PM walking political tightrope

STAVROS PAPANTONIOU, GIORGOS BOURDARAS

TAGS: Politics

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is facing a difficult balancing act as his coalition partner, Panos Kammenos, has shifted stance several times regarding his support for the leftist-led administration due to his opposition to the Prespes name deal. A meeting on Sunday morning between the men is expected to determine the future of the shaky coalition. 

The past week has seen the junior coalition parther shift stance countless times. Kammenos, who had indicated that he was planning to quit the government imminently over the deal, carried out an about-turn on Friday afternoon following a session of his Independent Greeks (ANEL) parliamentary group.

In a post on his Twitter account, Kammenos, who is also defense minister, declared that “there is no issue of confidence unless it is linked to the Prespes agreement.”

Up until that moment, Kammenos had suggested that he would quit the government even before the deal comes to Greece’s Parliament.

On Thursday, Kammenos reportedly told armed forces chiefs that he would not be meeting with them again as minister, suggesting that his resignation was imminent. Then, New Democracy MPs on Friday morning walked out of a parliamentary committee session that was discussing offsets in an F-16 deal, saying that such critical issues cannot be discussed by an “outgoing minister.” Kammenos retorted that he was not about to resign.

However, a meeting planned with Tsipras for Friday afternoon had been expected to be pivotal, with speculation spiraling about whether the prime minister would secure Kammenos’s support for a bit longer or discuss the details of a break-up.

It was shortly before tense talks with his MPs that Kammenos said the meeting with Tsipras had been called off.

According to reports, Kammenos’s intention to ask Tsipras to remove all ANEL ministers from the cabinet when the name deal goes to Greek Parliament for ratification was opposed by most present at an emergency meeting of ANEL lawmakers.

Kammenos also came under fire from several of his MPs who accused him of leading the party to a strategic impasse. 

The ANEL leader said his meeting with the PM was canceled due to a “hitch” in the debate in the Parliament of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the name deal.

Later Friday evening, however, Skopje’s Parliament approved the deal with a two-thirds majority. The amendment was backed by 81 lawmakers in the 120-seat House. The nationalist VMRO-DPMNE boycotted the vote.

Tsipras called his FYROM counterpart Zoran Zaev to congratulate him, his office said in a written statement. The vote was also hailed by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and the EU commissioner in charge of enlargement, Johannes Hahn.

“NATO strongly supports the full implementation of the agreement, which is an important contribution to a stable and prosperous region,” Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.

Sources close to Tsipras indicated that a vote of confidence might not be necessary if Kammenos does not shift from his latest position.

In another scenario, Tsipras may opt for a show of force by calling a confidence vote before bringing the Prespes deal to Parliament.

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