As could be expected, the political situation in Greece is getting more fiery by the day following the Tsipras-Zaev agreement which, if ratified, would allow Greece’s northern neighbor to officially name itself “North Macedonia.”
Following the passage of an austerity multi-bill in parliament on Wednesday, a bill which was carried solely by the votes of the “radical leftist” SYRIZA and its coalition partner, the “nationalist” and “patriotic” Independent Greeks party and which promises more austerity and privatizations for a country supposedly exiting the austerity and memorandum regime — Friday’s parliamentary agenda concerned the vote of no confidence against the government, which was called by the center-right New Democracy party, the main opposition party. And it is here were chaos — or at least a well-choreographed version of it — ensued.
First came the example of Konstantinos Barbarousis, a member of parliament with the far right Golden Dawn party. In a speech before parliament, Barbarousis suggested that the military intervene and arrest the president of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos, prime minister Alexis Tsipras, and defense minister Panos Kammenos.
Following this, the Greek justice system — typically slow as molasses when it comes to the concerns of ordinary citizens — kicked into overdrive, with Barbarousis facing immediate charges of high treason for his calls for a military putsch. While early reports erroneously stated that Barbarousis had been arrested, in a phone call to national network Star TV, Barbarousis stated that he was “freely circulating.” This was followed by a police chase on the Athens-Patras highway, where Barbarousis reportedly evaded a police blockade before going into hiding. As of the time of this writing on Friday evening, Barbarousis had not been arrested.
Following Barbarousis’ statements in parliament, Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos expelled Barbarousis from Golden Dawn’s parliamentary team. In turn, Golden Dawn’s parliamentary representation was expelled from the no confidence proceedings.
The parliamentary festivities then continued as debate over the no confidence motion went on, with all of the MPs of the Communist Party (KKE) walking out of the debate. In a statement before parliament, Dimitris Koutsoumbas, the general secretary of the KKE, stated that “the KKE will no longer legitimize this process, our parliamentary team will no longer participate in this parody of a parliamentary procedure, we are departing immediately.”
While the no confidence procedure may indeed be a farce, and while the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks coalition government was likely to survive a no confidence vote, KKE’s departure, along with the expulsion of Golden Dawn, means that SYRIZA could surpass a no confidence vote simply with the votes of its own MPs, without necessitating the support even of the Independent Greeks — who have stated that they do not support the “North Macedonia” deal but nevertheless (and not surprisingly, considering the history of this party) continue to “support” the government. The sweet taste of power is so very hard to let go of, after all.
At this point, it should be mentioned that seemingly the entirety of Greek (and foreign press correspondent) reporting on the KKE departure and Golden Dawn expulsion did not address what this would mean for the no confidence vote and the number of votes the government would need to survive the censure. It is one of many instances where the servile, pro-EU, pro-austerity, neoliberal media — both domestic and international — have kept their audience in the dark.
Adding to this hallmark day in Greece’s parliament was an instance where SYRIZA MP Giorgos Oursouzidis spoke in the “Macedonian” language, in a message of “friendship” towards the people of Greece’s northern neighbor. At a time where the SYRIZA government is attempting to ram through an agreement which is highly unpopular with a large majority of Greece (but highly popular with sundry neoliberals, globalists, and warmongers such as John McCain), speaking in a language which the government just recognized as “Macedonian” based on a fraudulent argument regarding the “recognition” of this language by the United Nations in 1977, is itself a provocative act, even if one of a much different nature from the statements made by Barbarousis.
As all of this was occurring inside the parliament building, outside of parliament, protesters gradually began to gather throughout the day, opposing the “North Macedonia” agreement. At some point, a group of these protesters attempted, unsuccessfully, to storm the parliament building, lobbing bottles and coffee cups at the police presence, which pushed back the protesters. No arrests have been reported. This police presence, of course, has no problem defending criminals of many stripes inside the parliament building, all for a paltry monthly wage of around 700 euros which those same politicians have repeatedly slashed in recent years. Surely other similarly-paying professions, such as scrubbing toilets, would be far more honorable and honest. For some in crisis-hit Greece though, the cost of one’s dignity has hit rock bottom.
Nevertheless, the protest outside the parliament building was largely peaceful and while it was modest in size, it grew as the day wore on. Protesters waved Greek flags and sang patriotic songs such as “Macedonia Xakousti,” a song which very well could be considered “chauvinistic” and thus in violation of the Tsipras-Zaev deal, if and when it comes into effect.
Despite today’s moderately sized demonstration, larger protests are planned for Saturday evening outside of parliament, and on Sunday in the Prespes region of the northern Greek prefecture of Macedonia, again in opposition to the “North Macedonia” deal.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.