NEWS

Greek coalition expiration date looms

STAVROS PAPANTONIOU, GIORGOS BOURDARAS

TAGS: Politics

With the four-year partnership between leftist SYRIZA and nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL) looking like it may be heading to an end over the name deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), pundits are scrambling to forecast the exact date and whether it will be a velvet divorce or an acrimonious breakup.

In a speech to party officials, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appeared to throw down the gauntlet Monday to ANEL, saying that his government would survive a breakup and has the necessary 151 votes to pass the name deal in Parliament.

He added that his government would also win a majority in any “other crucial vote” that would follow. Analyst saw this as a hint at a confidence vote, which the government had ruled out last week.

At the same time, Tsipras has sought to avoid a public conflict, especially at a time of looming national elections. Sources say the government has decided not to take the bait, no matter how over-the-top the remarks from ANEL leader Panos Kammenos.

SYRIZA sources told Kathimerini that after four years of “good cooperation” – in spite of the ideological divide between the two parties – it would be a shame if the partnership were to end in war.

With this in mind, Tsipras may reportedly seek a meeting, even Tuesday, with Kammenos to defuse tensions. Tsipras’s stance is also reflected by the postponement of an interview he was scheduled to give Tuesday to the Open TV channel to Wednesday – after Tuesday's meeting of ANEL’s parliamentary group.

The prime minister also wants to avoid a clash that could cast a cloud over Thursday’s visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

However, given recent statements, Kammenos is already seen to be on a war path. In a series of tweets over the weekend, Kammenos, who is also defense minister, stressed that he is undertaking an “uncompromising struggle” to secure that FYROM does not use the term “Macedonia” in its name under the deal.

Kammenos made his comments just a few days before FYROM is expected to ratify the name deal.

Moreover, another indication of his belligerent stance is the ongoing war of words with former foreign minister Nikos Kotzias – who negotiated and signed the agreement – whom he described as a “destructive” force.

Meanwhile, conservative New Democracy hit out at both Tsipras and Kammenos, accusing them of destabilizing the country. “At a time when our country is facing critical issues of national interest and economic concern, Tsipras and Kammenos are plunging it into dangerous instability,” the opposition party said in a statement.

“Tsipras has two choices. He can either seek a vote of confidence in Parliament or he can call elections. There has never been a minority government since the restoration of democracy and it is inconceivable that there should be one now.”

In response, Tsipras’s office suggested that ND should call a censure motion if it doubts the coalition’s support in Parliament.

“ND and Mitsotakis, who have been calling for the government to quit and for elections to be held every other day for the past three years, are now ostensibly concerned about political stability,” the statement said, referring to ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

“If they have genuine doubts about the government’s support in Parliament, all they have to do is try, submitting a censure motion.”

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