ATHENS – Former Defense Minister Panos Kammenos booted from his Independent Greeks (ANEL) two ministers who serve the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA for saying they will support Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in a vote of confidence this week.
Ejected were Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura and Deputy Agricultural Development Minister Vassilis Kokkalis, but Kammenos did not toss two other Members of Parliament from ANEL who said they would vote for a SYRIZA-backed deal to rename the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
By shedding Kountoura and Kokkalis, Kammenos can still have five members, the minimum needed to have a parliamentary group and retain privileges and benefit while saying he held his ground against the giveaway of the name Macedonia, with the deal calling for FYROM to be named North Macedonia.
Kammenos had said that he would dismiss ANEL ministers who insisted on keeping their ministerial seats ahead of a vote of confidence in the government this week after he met Tsipras and quit over the FYROM agreement.
Kammenos had reversed his opposition to austerity measures – he quit the New Democracy Conservatives for backing those conditions – to become a minister and get into power in a coalition with SYRIZA but ejected Kountoura and Kokkalis for doing essentially the same.
Kountoura and Kokkalis can stay on in Parliament and as ministers as Independents unless they try to join SYRIZA and jump from the far-right to the far-left to return to Parliament in elections this year with surveys showing ANEL at about 1 percent, far below the 3 percent threshold needed to get back to the body.
Pavlos Christides, the spokesman for Movement for Change (KINAL,) a collection of center-left groups, said its members could vote whichever way they want over the FYROM deal without facing ejection despite the party’s opposition to SYRIZA and Tsipras.
“The time has come for a face-to-face showdown with Mr. Tsipras,” Christides said. “KINAL is SYRIZA’s greatest rival,” he said, adding that the agreement with FYROM “is problematic for our national interests,” without explaining why KINAL MPs would be allowed to back it.
In comments to the news247 website, Christides said there was no question of party discipline over the FYROM deal.