ATHENS – Major opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the departure of the Independent Greeks (ANEL) from the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA was staged to benefit both parties and let Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras win a confidence vote and get his deal to rename the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
“The SYRIZA-ANEL alliance still exists. (The two parties) have just merged. However, their mentality which led the country to an unprecedented downfall will affect us for a long time to come,” he told Antenna TV Jan. 15 in an interview.
Mitsotakis indicated the agreement was designed to let former Defense Minister and Panos Kammenos, who leads the tiny, pro-austerity, jingoistic ANEL keep five lawmakers, enough to maintain a parliamentary group and get privileges and benefits and prevent the dissolution of the party itself.
Tsipras and Kammenos are in perfect agreement so that they each get their way,” he added of the oddfellows coalition of the far-left and far-right that had worked together for four years after both reneged on anti-austerity promises once in power.
Kammenos claimed he quit the coalition in objection to the agreement the anti-nationalist Tsipras made with FYROM Premier Zoran Zaev to rename that country North Macedonia – giving away the name of an ancient Greek province.
The deal also would lift Greek vetoes keeping the country out of NATO and opening European Union accession talks and would let citizens of North Macedonia be called Macedonians and have a Macedonian language, culture and identity.
When Kammenos quit, Tsipras called a vote of confidence he’s expected to win with the backing of his party’s 145 lawmakers, one alleged Independent, at least four ANEL lawmakers and ministers who defied Kammenos to say they would back the Premier and the FYROM name deal and a handful of votes from rival parties.
Tsipras needs only 151 votes in the 300-member Parliament to gain the confidence tally win as well as to ratify the FYROM deal that has been approved in that country and the break with ANEL has ironically gained him more votes.
Kammenos, who had only seven lawmakers including himself, booted Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura and Deputy Agriculture Minister Vassilis Kokkalis from the party’s parliamentary group, handing their votes to Tsipras.
ANEL MPs Costas Zouraris and Thanassis Papachristopoulos and Deputy Citizens’ Protection Minister Katerina Papacosta have also said they will back the government but they are not being ejected as that would leave Kammenos nearly alone and without a parliamentary group.
With elections required to be held by October this year, SYRIZA is far behind New Democracy and ANEL registering at only about 1 percent, far below the 3 percent needed to return to Parliament, leaving Tsipras scrambling and Kammenos frantic to find votes.
Kammenos said he would back a censure motion by New Democracy on the condition that Mitsotakis publicly commits to reject a deal that would include the term Macedonia.
“We insist on no use at all of the term ‘Macedonia,’” Kammenos told Star TV in an interview.
“I will do anything permitted by the constitution to prevent the deal from going through,” he added.
Mitsotakis told Antenna his party will not back Greece’s name deal with FYROM, adding that elections are the “clearest solution” for the country at the moment. He said if the name deal fails in Parliament he would renegotiate new terms if he’s elected.
Ironically, it was his late father, former Premier Constantinos Mitsotakis, who in 1991 allowed the new country emerging from the breakup of Yugoslavia to take the name Macedonia in what was supposed to be a temporary acronym.
But after successive FYROM governments began claiming Greek lands, including the real Macedonia and second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki, Greece used a veto to keep its Balkan neighbor out of NATO and any EU membership hopes.