The ratification process for the Prespes Agreement in Greek parliament is forming a new map in the country’s political landscape.
The long economic crisis created opportunities for the formation of opportunistic political formations that served a tough anti-bailout narrative, rallying groups of citizens that abandoned the former major political parties, New Democracy and PASOK. In the public psyche, the two former political giants are to blame for the economic crisis.
Upon exiting the restrictive MoU framework, the reason these small political entities were created was no more. The opportunistic “ideological” positioning of these formations lost its orientation and the support of voters and “opportunistic” partnerships of party officials alike, when the process to exit the crisis was set in motion.
The ideological “emptiness” and the lack of depth in the ideological orientation of these formations deprived them, strengthening the two main poles of the political scene in Greece. On the one hand is the right-wing conservative party of New Democracy; and left-wing SYRIZA is on the other hand, which is being transformed into a social democratic party, rallying the center-left voters once represented by PASOK.
Two other smaller formations wing these two powerful poles that dominate Greek parliament: on the left, the traditional Communist Party of Greece; and Golden Dawn on the far right. The former acts as a pool for SYRIZA to find voter in and the latter for New Democracy.
On the other hand, the once powerful PASOK, transformed into Democratic Coalition initially and Movement for Change (KINAL) subsequently, with its previous cooperation with ND weighing heavily on the party, it still appears to be suffering from this coalition. At the same time, acknowledging that SYRIZA is eyeing its supporters, KINAL is taking a tough stance against its big opponent, hoping to survive in this political landscape. This attitude essentially closes the door to possible cooperation between the two center-left parties. The fear being that KINAL could eventually be absorbed by SYRIZA.
The smaller parties, the Independent Greeks, To Potami and the Union of Centrists are losing their MPs and are at risk of seeing the parliamentary groups dissolve and their privileges lost in the process. Lawmakers leaving the minor parties ae moving to the stronger political entities that give them an opportunity to prolong their political careers.
The renewed confidence of the House in the SYRIZA standalone government after Panos Kammenos’ Independent Greeks party quit the coalition, has rallied the opposition even more. A desire for the government to collapse did not materialize and the ratification of the Prespes Agreement is now the major and minor oppositions’ big hope for their goal to be achieved.
The Agreement that ends the dispute over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is now the center of political controversy between the government and the opposition.
The deal has all the elements that both New Democracy and PASOK negotiated for in previous years but never managed to clinch from the governments of FYROM. The composite name with a geographical distinction erga omnes, the elimination of irredentist claims and admission that ancient Macedonia is different to FYROM are the three elements that brought about an Agreement. The deal, moreover, was hailed by all European countries, institutions and political forces alike.
With the opposition having lost every political argument it may have used to fight the government, as the country has now left the bailout era behind and is preparing to take measures to protect the most vulnerable, it is now using a major national issue to pit itself against the ruling party. It is using the Prespes Agreement which, paradoxically, incorporates all the previous views of both ND and PASOK, as mentioned above.
The small turnout in Sunday’s rally in support of Macedonia’s Greek identity – compared to the expectations of its organizers – and the violence that broke out, caused by right-wing extremists, resulted in the opposition parties being in disarray. The Prespes Agreement, which became a tool in the hands of nationalists and extremists, is driving the opposition parties that want to win the necessary support to survive in this political environment. Of course unclear choices do not always end well for those who make them.
What seems inevitable, however, is the strengthening of the new poles in Greek politics, SYRIZA and New Democracy, resulting in the smaller parties shrinking further. Latest developments have already cost To Potami its parliamentary group, while the same is expected to happen to the Independent Greeks after the Prespes deal is ratified. As for the Movement for Change, the expulsion of the Democratic Left president from its parliamentary group is leading the movement to an extraordinary conference with unpredictable consequences.
Once the Prespes Agreement is ratified in Greek parliament, political controversy in a pre-election year will shift to ideological differences between political parties. This is where the ideological depth and policies of each party will become clear, with SYRIZA and New Democracy gaining the most./IBNA