ATHENS – Anti-nationalist Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA Alexis Tsipras’ deal to let the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia keep the name of an ancient abutting province and be called North Macedonia is still anathema to Greeks.
A survey by the MARC polling firm for the Proto Thema newspaper showed 64.5 percent oppose the agreement, up 2.5 percent from a previous survey before FYROM approved it.
The agreement is aimed at ending a 27-year name feud that began when a New Democracy government in 1991 allowed the new country emerging from the break-up of Yugoslavia to use the name of Macedonia in a temporary acronym.
But after successive FYROM governments kept claiming Greek lands – including the real Macedonia and second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki – Greece used a veto as a member of NATO and the European Union to keep its neighbor out, both which would be lifted if the deal is ratified by both countries.
That has already been done by FYROM, which also voted to change its Constitution to remove irredentist claims on Greek territories and is due to come to a vote in the Greek Parliament in March, 2019, when Tsipras’ junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said they will vote against it and leave the government.
Many Greeks are still worried that the use of the same name by the neighboring state could lead to territorial claims, said the Chinese news agency Xinhua.
The poll also showed that Greece’s main opposition conservative New Democracy party, which also opposes the deal, leading SYRIZA by 11.2 percent, a margin 31.2-20 percent.
The center-Left Movement for Change, led by officials of the former PASOK Socialists who went defunct after backing austerity measures antithetical to their alleged principles, were third with 7.1 percent, followed by the ultra-extremist right-wing Golden Dawn with 6.5 percent, although all its 15 lawmakers and 68 members are on trial on charges of running a criminal gang.
Fifth in their traditional spot, which has barely varied for decades, was the KKE Communists with 6.2 percent. No other party, including three now in Parliament – ANEL, To Potami, and the Union of Centrists would hit the 3 percent threshold needed to get back.
Some 72.2 percent of respondents said that they would prefer snap elections in case Kammenos leaves the government as he has threatened to do when the FYROM deal comes to a vote in Parliament in March, although he said he wouldn’t stand in the way of the deal nor bring down the government, allowing him to have it both ways, his usual modus operandi.