Coalition partners seek to close ranks with amendments


The U-turn this week by the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL), SYRIZA’s right-wing coalition partner, on a Justice Ministry bill paving the way for transgender people to be formally recognized by the gender they identify as, reflects the decision by the two party leaders to close ranks in the face of growing speculation from the opposition over the government’s unity. 

ANEL’s parliamentary spokesman Thanassis Papachristopoulos said on Wednesday that the party would support the bill in Parliament. However, he added that the party remained against granting adoption rights to same-sex couples. 

“We at the Independent Greeks will vote the bill through,” he said, highlighting the effort by the two parties, although ideologically at opposite ends of the political spectrum, to put on a show of unity. 

The vote in Parliament is seen as a litmus test for government unity after opposition New Democracy and PASOK said they would no longer vote in favor of legislation that was not backed by the government majority. 

ANEL’s turnabout came after leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras backed ANEL chief Panos Kammenos in the rejection of calls for a parliamentary investigation into the Noor 1 heroin trafficking affair. 

The gender issue, as well as a Justice Ministry amendment aiming to recognize the “Turkish Union of Xanthi” organization, was the focus of a meeting at Maximos Mansion on Tuesday between Tsipras, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis and Kammenos. 

Despite previously opposing the move to back the bill on the grounds that it would fuel Turkish irredentism and pose a threat to Greek national interests, Kammenos reportedly assured Tsipras that his deputies would back a revised version of the amendment. 

Successive Greek governments have for decades followed a policy that defined Muslims in Western Thrace as Greeks rather than Turks. 

It remains to be seen, however, if the revised wording of the amendment will be acceptable to senior ANEL lawmakers, including hard-line Deputy Parliament Speaker Dimitris Kammenos.