The popular rage against the Greece-FYROM naming agreement seems to be endless for the government, as the backlash was felt even by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras while on a visit to London.
Hours after yesterday’s extensive violent clashes between protesters and police outside the site of the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair, where SYRIZA was hosting an event entitled, “The Macedonian issue: The benefits of the agreement and prospects in the Balkans”, Tsipras was heckled in London.
“Traitor, shame on you. Macedonia is Greece, only Greece. Come and get your 30 pieces of silver,” one protester declared, comparing the PM to Judas.
Though there were few demonstrators, the fact that the protest occurred while Tsipras was on a trip abroad, as well as the evident annoyance of his entourage, demonstrates that the denunciations are bothering the government.
The government maintains that most protests against the accord are carried out by extremist elements, but the last, unsuccessful efforts of government members to conduct a dialogue with protesters betray alarm over recent developments.
Protracted protests, shifting the agenda
The fact that it will take some months for Skopje to hold a referendum and amend the constitution, which must all be done all before the Greek parliament ratifies the accord, raises the spectre of protracted protests.
At the same time, Tsipras’ junior coalition partner, the Independent Greeks, declare that they will support the government, but refuse to ratify the agreement.
As a result of all this, government members are urgently seeking ways to shift the political agenda. Their apparent solution – opening a debate about amending the constitution to completely separate Church and State – will cause new fissures with the Independent Greeks, which have made religiosity a banner.
The FYROM deal has isolated the government from all opposition parties, except for certain To Potami MPs who support the accord.
Protests and verbal attacks against MPs and cadres of the two ruling parties are mounting.
The protests are more intense in northern Greece, and particularly the province of Macedonia, and the two coalition parties are plunging in the polls.
A poll conducted in eastern, central and Western Macedonia showed that 86 percent of respondents reject the agreement.