Panos Kammenos appeared exceedingly confident when he said (twice) during Sunday’s press conference announcing his departure from the coalition that his Independent Greeks (ANEL) party intends to back specific legislation that is headed to Parliament. It was not odd that he said his party would support future initiatives by ruling SYRIZA, even though when it comes to the former defense minister there is absolutely no certainty that he will do what he says – the saga of his resignation having become something of a joke. What was odd was his certainty that there will be a SYRIZA government to submit legislation that he can back after he votes against it in this week’s confidence motion.
Kammenos’s assurance points to the probability that when he sat down with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to talk about the decision for Independent Greeks to step down, they did the math and were confident that the government would not collapse. It also suggests that his “heroic exit” was nothing but a show, put on for the benefit of voters in the next general elections. Basically, it’s a win-win, with Tsipras getting the confidence vote he needs and Kammenos maintaining his sense of national pride.
They forget, however, that Murphy’s law – whatever can go wrong will go wrong – always comes into play when governments are on their way out, for the simple reason that their strength when it comes to reacting to or bouncing back from mishaps is lessened. A much smaller number of people believe a weakened government and even fewer support it even if they do believe what it says. After all, the government itself hailed the resurrection of the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the ensuing Prespes agreement as a “shake-up of the political landscape” – it’s just that that shake-up didn’t go quite the way the prime minister had expected. Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis’s predictions of a fluid political landscape also came true, though, again, not in the sense that the government meant: Instead of the opposition New Democracy party becoming a fluid force, the government’s coalition partner did.
The problem is that Murphy’s law not only tends to slam governments that are on their way out, but also countries where everything is stretched to the limit, where the economy is coming off the rails and a wildfire on Mount Penteli is capable of killing 100 people on Attica’s eastern coast. And precisely because everything that can go wrong in Greece will, the country needs a government with a greater ability to react than this one.
Published in eKathimerini.com 14.1.2019