Coalition on the back foot


The political backlash stemming from the name deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) coupled with lagging poll numbers has put the ruling coalition on the back foot, forcing it to re-examine its strategy.

The pressure on the coalition intensified last week after its parliamentary majority shrank even further to 152 (out of 300 seats) with the departure of lawmaker Giorgos Lazaridis of junior partner Independent Greeks (ANEL), in protest at the name deal.

His departure followed the expulsion from ANEL of prominent MP Dimitris Kammenos, who refused to back the coalition in a confidence vote over the name deal signed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his FYROM counterpart Zoran Zaev on the shore of Lake Prespa a fortnight ago.

Lazaridis’s decision came as a shock to the government, which was riding high after the confidence motion submitted by opposition New Democracy was rejected in Parliament and ANEL leader Panos Kammenos’s assurances that he was in control of his party’s MPs.

And with other ANEL lawmakers coming under increasing pressure from their constituents over the name deal, the coalition’s house majority appears all the more tenuous.

Polls have also suggested that ANEL’s MPs run the real risk of not being re-elected to Parliament. The government’s initial response to the departures of the lawmakers from the ruling coalition was to charge that New Democracy had hatched a plan in cahoots with various business interests to bring it down.

However, it has reportedly opted to reduce tensions and instead embark on a strategy to woo independent lawmakers who are not opposed to the FYROM name deal in the event that more MPs jump ship and further shrink its majority.

An indication of the atmosphere bearing down on the coalition was an event last Friday in Serres, northern Greece, celebrating the 105th anniversary of the town’s liberation from the Ottoman Turks. Shipping Minister Panayiotis Kouroublis was jeered and called a “traitor” by several protesters in attendance. Kouroublis represented the government at the event after Deputy Minister for Macedonia-Thrace Maria Kollia-Tsaroucha reportedly refused to.