Cracks of an ideological nature are beginning to appear in the coalition after the leader of junior partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) denounced comments by Parliament Speaker and SYRIZA MP Nikos Voutsis with regard to the country’s Orthodox identity.
Voutsis had said in an interview Wednesday on state-run ERT TV that “post-bailout Greece cannot be deeply conservative, adhering to the motto of country, religion, family.” Repeatedly resorting to a deeply conservative agenda from the past cannot be the “flag of post-bailout Greece,” he said.
In response to the reporter’s suggestion that the Greek people are Orthodox Christians, Voutsis said that “in Greece, Orthodoxy concerns 90 percent of the population.” “We are a modern state. We are not a fundamentalist Orthodox state, nor the Taliban of the Orthodox,” he said.
His comments were dismissed by ANEL chief Panos Kammenos with a post on social media. “We are absolutely opposed to the remarks by the parliamentary speaker, as is the vast majority of Orthodox Greeks,” the right-wing party leader wrote. His post was widely seen as harbinger of further acrimony within the coalition down the road as senior partner SYRIZA seeks to define and impose Greece’s post-bailout identity along more progressive lines, to ANEL’s dismay.
His remarks came on the heels of the recent very public disagreement voiced by Deputy Parliament Speaker and ANEL MP Dimitris Kammenos (no relation of the party leader) to the government’s controversial decision that students bearing the Greek flag at primary school parades will be selected by lot.
Up until now flag-bearers were the students with the best grades. Moreover, Dimitris Kammenos also voted down an article, included in the recent education bill, calling for the revival of the so-called university asylum that bans police officers from entering university grounds.