ATHENS – Even without his coalition partner, the Independent Greeks (ANEL), Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras reportedly has enough votes to survive a vote of confidence, to pass a new name deal for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and likely govern until elections as late as October.
ANEL leader Panos Kammenos, who quit as Defense Minister over his objection to the deal to rename FYROM as North Macedonia and give away the name of the ancient Greek province, technically withdrew his party and its seven votes from the government.
But four of his other six lawmakers had already indicated they would back the FYROM deal and three are staying in ministerial positions, defying him in what critics said was to keep their jobs at the expense of their alleged principles and to back Tsipras and SYRIZA.
Tsipras’ party has 145 members in the 300-seat Parliament as well now as the four ANEL votes, from Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura, Agriculture Deputy Minister Vassilis Kokkalis and Members of Parliament (MPs) Thanassis Papachristopoulos and Costas Zouraris, none of whom were ejected by Kammenos.
The set-up was a pre-arranged deal, said Kathimerini, allowing Kammenos to remain leader of a parliamentary group over which he no longer has control so that they can all keep MP privileges and benefits, the apparent reason he didn’t eject the dissidents because it requires at least five members.
With two other votes, one from To Potami MP Spyros Danellis and Citizens Security Deputy Minister Katerina Papacosta, an Independent formerly a minister with the major opposition New Democracy, Tsipras has the 151 votes he needs to stay in power, the paper said.
With possible votes from as many as three other members of To Potami and one from the Centrists Union – neither party in surveys has enough support to return to Parliament – Tsipras may have as many as 155 votes with signs that lawmakers in failing parties are looking for safe harbor. There might be one more, possibly Democratic Left (DIMAR) chief Thanasis Theocharopoulos.
Talking to reporters after meeting Tsipras on Jan. 13 to resign, Kammenos blistered Kountoura and Kokkalis, who were – conveniently, he said – out of the country and wouldn’t return his calls – for jumping ship in a mini-mutiny.
But Kammenos later ejected her from ANEL, declaring that she “exchanged her vote and the Macedonia name for a ministerial seat,” although critics said he’d done the same in reneging on anti-austerity promises to become Defense Minister and join the coalition led by SYRIZA.
Only Kammenos and his Deputy Minister Maria Kollia-Tsaroucha, will resign their government posts. With ANEL polling at around 1 percent, far below the 3 percent threshold needed to return to Parliament, there is speculation the dissidents will jump from the far-right ANEL to the far-left SYRIZA to keep their positions.
Tsipras said he’d call the vote of confidence, expecting to win, and that he also has enough votes, including from other rival parties, to easily pass the FYROM deal despite the objections of two-thirds of Greeks in surveys, which he has disregarded.
New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who opposes the deal even though it was his late father, former Premier Constantinos Mitsotakis who allowed the new country emerging from the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991 to take the name of Macedonia in what was supposed to be a temporary acronym, has been pushing for early elections.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)