Referendum divides coalition partner


A serious rift appeared within the ranks of the junior coalition party Independent Greeks (ANEL) over the upcoming referendum on Thursday, with party leader Panos Kammenos ejecting one MP who said he would vote “yes” to proposals by creditors in defiance of a SYRIZA-led “no” campaign.

Costas Damavolitis, an ANEL MP for Iraklio on Crete, was removed from the right-wing party’s parliamentary group and asked to hand over his seat. He conceded and his seat went to Grigoris Makaronas, the runner-up in last January’s general elections in his constituency, meaning that the party kept its presence in Parliament intact.

Damavolitis was one of five of the junior coalition partner’s lawmakers to break ranks with the government line on Thursday. Vassilis Kokkalis, Dimitris Kammenos, Nikos Mavraganis and Thanassis Papachristopoulos also called for the referendum to be called off, with some hinting they would vote “yes” if it goes ahead.

Damavolitis’s statement was the most vehement as he challenged the party leadership to eject him.

Kammenos, who immediately slashed him from ANEL’s list of MPs, is said to have told the other lawmakers: “We’re at war and there are no exceptions. Whoever can’t handle the war should leave.”

A rupture already appeared to be forming between ANEL and leftist SYRIZA on Wednesday after Kammenos, who is also defense minister, reportedly threatened to resign over a pledge by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to creditors to cut defense spending. The promise was revoked in a statement from the premier’s office later that day.