The name deal and Kammenos’s endgame


The stance of Independent Greeks (ANEL), the junior nationalist party in Greece’s leftist-led coalition, on the name deal reached with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continues to resemble a kind of theater of the absurd.

The latest with respect to what will happen when the agreement comes to Greece’s Parliament for ratification is that Independent Greeks leader and Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, along with party members who choose to follow him – at least two appear unwilling to do so – will vote against the deal, and then the members of ANEL who are serving in the cabinet will resign.

That way, Kammenos believes he will be able to claim that he has thus expressed his “staunch” opposition to the agreement reached between Athens and Skopje in June, and can then continue to support the government in Parliament without actually being a part of it.

Once more, Kammenos is trying to play both sides. Even though the majority of ANEL voters are very sensitive about the name issue and oppose the deal with FYROM, their party will effectively facilitate its ratification, which can be achieved with SYRIZA’s votes in Parliament, along with a handful from centrist Potami and MPs who are independent.

Apparently, Independent Greeks can disagree with the prospect of “giving up” the term “Macedonia” to Skopje – arguing that while it did everything in its power to stop that from happening, at the end of the day it could not be prevented – and then continue to support the party that did so. In other words, it is backing the party that under any different circumstances Kammenos would have branded a “traitor.”

Despite adopting this overtly contradictory stance, Kammenos is theoretically still banking on the support of voters who oppose the deal with FYROM. His stance is nothing short of surreal. The likelihood of ANEL garnering the votes it needs to make it into Parliament again in the next general elections is slim to none.

In the meantime, there are several influential figures ready to fill the void on the right of New Democracy and who have a much better chance of entering Parliament. One in particular already has a strong support base in northern Greece and is almost certain to be voted in. If he manages to rally others in the right wing who are still deliberating, he could even do quite well.

The best that Panos Kammenos can expect from his strategy is to lengthen his own and a few close associates’ parliamentary careers by a few months – unless, that is, his endgame all along has been a spot on the SYRIZA ticket.