ATHENS – With their fragile coalition on edge, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos and Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras broke off a planned sit-down Jan. 11 as tensions built over Greece’s deal to rename the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Kammenos is upset with the agreement the anti-nationalist Tsipras made to let FYROM be called North Macedonia, giving away the name of an ancient Greek province forever,.
Kammenos said he would vote against it and take his coalition partner the Independent Greeks (ANEL) out of the government if the deal comes to Parliament for a vote.
But he has repeatedly contradicted himself, saying he will eject any of his six Members of Parliament who support the deal before several said they were leaning toward backing the agreement and would defy him.
“We decided to put off the meeting with the Prime Minister until the complication in FYROM is resolved,” Kammenos told journalists as he came out of the meeting, adding he’s in touch with Tsipras but that talks between them can’t continue on the basis of “scenarios” he didn’t outline.
Taking ANEL out of the coalition could threatened to topple the government unless Tsipras can find another partner or decides to stay on as a minority government without enough votes to control Parliament.
ANEL’s seven votes, alone with one from an alleged Independent, give the government a scant three-vote majority in the 300-member body but Tsipras would need votes of rival parties to get legislation passed if Kammenos bolts.
With ANEL at only about 1 percent in polls after he too joined Tsipras in reneging on anti-austerity votes so he could become Defense Minister, Kammenos faces the prospect of not returning to Parliament in elections this year, which requires a 3 percent standard.
Kammenos may set some conditions to Tsipras in order to ensure that a likely break is not vindictive, the paper said, such as getting assurance all of his party’s ministers are forced out of the government and not allowed to join SYRIZA in the elections.
If that is agreed, it was reported that Kammenos would consider letting ANEL MPs vote the way they want if a no-confidence vote is brought against Tsipras by the major opposition New Democracy party he unseated but now has big leads in polls.
Kammenos though was said to still expect his lawmakers to vote against the FYROM deal but didn’t say what he would do if they defy him.
All that comes after reports that reports said Kammenos had indicated he was ready to quit the government as his post as Defense Minister. Asked what he would do, he was evasive, saying only that, “I will do what is right,” without explaining himself.
Later he said that, “I am not an outgoing minister nor am I about to resign,” which came during a parliamentary session over F-16 upgrade offsets that upset New Democracy, which said those could lead to mismanagement of Defense Ministry contracts.