Despite the government’s insistence that it will not be swayed off course in its bid to find a solution to the long-standing name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the mass demonstration on Sunday in Thessaloniki against a compromise came to highlight the growing cracks within the ruling coalition.
Deputy Parliament Speaker Dimitris Kammenos, a lawmaker for nationalist junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) and one of several prominent party MPs who took part in the “grandiose” demonstration, urged Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to heed protester demands not to settle for a solution that will include the term “Macedonia.” Tsipras is due to meet with his FYROM counterpart Zoran Zaev on Wednesday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“Whoever doesn’t listen [to the people] is on the wrong path,” the deputy speaker said.
ANEL leader Panos Kammenos has repeatedly stated that he will never accept a solution including the name “Macedonia.”
Even though police said Sunday’s protest drew some 90,000 people, conservative New Democracy’s vice president Adonis Georgiades claimed on Skai TV on Monday that there were half a million people present, saying this was an indication of the pressure Tsipras is under.
“The rally had 500,000 people… Tsipras is in trouble,” he said.
Meanwhile, seeking to counter criticism that opposition parties are being kept in the dark over the progress of negotiations, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told reporters on Monday that all party leaders will be duly briefed if there are any developments at tomorrow’s meeting that will put both sides on the path to a solution.
He also took a swipe at ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s criticism of how the government is handling the negotiations.
“If Mr Mitsotakis wants to continue on his path of opportunism, shortsighted and nationally damaging policy, this will be judged by the Greek people,” he said.
And in what was seen as a dig against ANEL, Tzanakopoulos said, “All of the country’s political forces have a national duty to stop hiding behind the demonstration to conceal their own contradictions and huge political dead ends.”