'Unnatural' Greek coalition could be short-lived

# 27 January 2015 01:34 (UTC +04:00)

An "unnatural" coalition government formed Monday between anti-austerity party Syriza and nationalist Independent Greeks could prove short-lived, analysts said, APA reports quoting Reuters.

Syriza are the first anti-austerity party to govern in Europe, but they fell two seats short of a 151-seat majority in parliament and thus needed an ally.

Syriza's 40-year-old leader Alexis Tsipras opted to cooperate with the Independent Greeks (ANEL), a party just as determined as his own to dump the austerity policies imposed over the past five years in return for a 240-billion-euro ($269 billion) EU-IMF bailout.

But analysts note that ANEL -- best-known for vitriolic attacks on Germany -- are unpredictable at best, and governing with them could also disrupt the balance among the various left-wing factions that make up Syriza.

The radical leftists are already heading for a confrontation with Greece's international creditors over their insistence on renegotiating the bailout deal and having most of the country's enormous debt written off.

Should the coalition falter, Greece could be forced into another election, paralysing the still-struggling economy and potentially plunging the eurozone into fresh instability.

"Syriza is made up of groups espousing different ideologies and Tsipras will have to seek a compromise inside his party, which is difficult," said Manos Papazoglou, a professor of political science at Peloponnese University.

"This is a strange and unnatural alliance," he told AFP, adding: "The truth about the government's cohesion will be revealed when they sit at the negotiating table in Europe."

Syriza and ANEL were brought closer in recent years by their common opposition to the EU-IMF bailout, which forced sweeping spending cuts on Greeks and deepened a painful six-year recession.

But they could not be further apart on other key issues such as immigration and civil rights. Syriza want to soften Greece's stance on migrants and asylum-seekers, while ANEL are close to the influential Orthodox Church and want to take a strong stance against neighbouring Turkey, Macedonia and Albania.

"The two movements have nothing else in common (except the bailout). This is not an auspicious start," said University of Crete political scientist Manolis Alexakis.

"The government's cohesion will be tested on a daily basis... power unites, of course, but I can't imagine certain people inside Syriza will be very happy with this (alliance)," he added.

- 'Group with a grudge' -

ANEL leader Panos Kammenos, 49, is a volatile ex-conservative lawmaker who abandoned the New Democracy party in 2012 after it approved the EU-IMF bailout, forming his own movement.

He has often called Greece's creditors "foreign conquerors" but wants the country to keep the euro.

"A coalition with ANEL could raise the risks of a big clash with Europe... ANEL is often seen as a group with a grudge," said Berenberg bank analyst Holger Schmieding.

Kammenos has termed the previous government a "dictatorship" and said officials who signed the loan agreement should be put on trial.

"We do not consider ANEL an anti-European party. Unless of course it's pro-European to bow to the demands of (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel and (German Finance Minister Wolfgang) Schaeuble," Yiannis Balafas, a member of Syriza's political committee, told Alpha TV.

"Greece should be seen as an equal partner in Europe, not as a tenant," he said.

There had been expectations that Syriza would ally itself with To Potami, a new pro-European party that won 17 seats in the election.

Alexakis, of the University of Crete, argued that ANEL could be an expendable asset for Syriza, to be cast aside once negotiations with the rest of Europe are over.

"Once the balance (in Europe) changes they could say 'goodbye' and seek an alliance with To Potami... or hold new elections hoping for a better score," he said.