SYRIZA, KINAL vie for the north


As political tensions rise amid spiraling speculation about snap polls, the battle between leftist SYRIZA and the centrist Movement for Change (KINAL) for center-left voters appears to be shifting to northern Greece, with the former eager to limit damage incurred due to the contentious Prespes deal with what is now North Macedonia and KINAL keen to capitalize on the ruling party’s losses.

The leftist-led government is eager to press ahead with its plan to reverse the negative climate in much of Greece’s northern region of Macedonia, where discontent over the name deal was particularly vehement and where SYRIZA’s popularity has plummeted.

One recent poll pointed to a gap of 18 percentage points between SYRIZA and the main conservative opposition New Democracy.

One veteran politician from northern Greece told Kathimerini that the climate is not at all receptive toward SYRIZA, referring to a discontent that could find its voice in elections.

Already government ministers have received a less than warm welcome. Tight security was in place this week for the visits by government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos to Katerini and Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos to Kavala.

The hecklers were a minority, in both cases, but there are fears that protests will broaden as elections draw nearer. The strategy of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, sources say, is to highlight the gains of the Prespes deal, including securing “Greek Macedonia” and the heritage of the ancient Greek civilization of Macedonia.

KINAL meanwhile expects a warmer reception in northern Greece as it vehemently rejected the Prespes deal, as did ND. Its stance on the issue does not appear to have translated into higher popular support yet but party cadres believe they have a firm base on which to build. KINAL leader Fofi Gennimata is due to give a speech titled “Macedonia in Focus” in Thessaloniki on Monday night.

ND also aims to boost its support in northern Greece in the countdown to polls. In the meantime, ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is next week due to conduct an official visit to Moscow, which strongly opposed the Prespes deal.