Independent Greeks: Who are Syriza's right-wing coalition partners and what do they want?
Leader Panos Kammenos (left) has made a deal with Syriza's Alexis Tsipras
Monday 26 January 2015
Socialist party Syriza might have won a surprising victory in Greece’s elections but it will only be able to govern with the help of the Independent Greeks, an unlikely coalition partner described by some as the country's equivalent of Ukip.
Who are the Independent Greeks?
The party was founded in early 2012 by leader Panos Kammenos, Greece’s former shipping minister who defected from the centre-right New Democracy party along with several fellow MPs.
Its founding declaration vowed to end the “national humiliation and violent economic attack” on Greece in measures imposed by the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund.
The party immediately took a socially right-wing stance, supporting patriotism and the role of the Greek Orthodox Church in family life and education.
The Independent Greeks vocally oppose immigration and multiculturalism, emphasising the importance of “Greek history and culture”.
Have they been successful?
Moderately. The Independent Greeks started with 13 MPs in 2012 – 10 incumbent defectors from New Democracy and one from the Panhellenic Socialist movement.
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In its first parliamentary election of May that year, the party gained almost 11 per cent of the vote and 33 MPs, but quickly lost out in the snap legislative election called just a month later, where it received 7.5 per cent of the vote, slashing its group to 20 MPs.
The result yesterday was worse again, with 5 per cent of the vote and just 13 MPs. But the number was just enough to make the Independent Greeks an attractive coalition partner for Syriza, with their combined representation of 162 seats giving the new government a slim majority in Greek’s parliament of 300.
Panos Kammenos' Independent Greeks have been described as a 'conspiracy-prone nationalist party'What are their main concerns?
Apart from the ultimate aim of throwing out Greece’s loan agreement, a key issue is immigration, with the party’s manifesto dictating a maximum figure of 2.5 per cent of the country’s population as long as the number of migrants is “economically and socially sustainable”.
It does not state how such a figure would be enforced.
The Independent Greeks want to re-claim war repatriations the party claims the country is owed by Germany, dating back to the Axis occupation in the Second World War.
It also wants to lift the legal immunity protecting ministers, parliamentarians, and officials who bear the blame for the economic crisis from prosecution.
Mr Kammenos has emphasised the role he sees in Greek life for the Orthodox Church in speeches, in contract to the leader of Syriza, who is an atheist.
Mr Kammenos is an avid follower of the Greek Orthodox churchThe Independent Greeks’ founding declaration says members believe in the “values and the timelessness of Orthodoxy”, potentially contributing to a conservative stance on issues such as gay marriage.
Do the Independent Greeks want to leave the EU?
No, but the party claims it wants to see “a united Europe of solidarity and cooperation, where all Member States are equivalent, while maintaining their national status and dignity”.
The founding declaration claims the alliance has been turned into a vehicle to further the interests of “the most powerful countries and the global banking system”, in a thinly-veiled stab at Germany and the troika.
Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras will be the head of the coalitionAre there many differences with Syriza?
The opposition to Greece’s loan agreement and forced austerity is one of the only areas in which the two parties agree.
Syriza has a socialist foundation, while the Independent Greeks favour the free market. Syriza’s former manifesto pledges vowed to withdraw all Greek troops abroad, quit Nato and dramatically reduce military spending, while the Independent Greeks want to strengthen defence and stay in Nato.
Syriza has a broadly liberal outlook on social issues, while its coalition partner’s commitment to the Orthodox church could cause arguments.
How do economists feel about the formation of a coalition with the Independent Greeks?
Not good. Economics analyst Wolf Piccoli, from Teneo Intelligence, told Bloomberg that although Syriza may enjoy a short “honeymoon”, it is badly paired with its new coalition partner and the inevitable clash of extreme left and right-wing ideas could cause instability.
“It is the worst possible outcome, let’s be very clear about that,” he said. “The Independent Greeks are a conspiracy-prone nationalist party…it’s a bad mix, let’s put it that way. Also there’s not much experience in government on both sides.
Anti-austerity voters during a rally outside Athens University Headquarters in Athens"This is a coalition of strange bedfellows because apart from the anti-austerity approach, these are two parties that are ideologically very divided.
“One is extreme left, the other is extreme right, they share no views at all together concerning issues like migration, like citizenship, so the glue is just about anti-austerity.”
Any other controversies?
Mr Kammenos earned his reputation for conspiracy theories in a 2012 speech, where he said said Greece was now a “laboratory animal” in an austerity experiment conducted by the IMF and EU, who “used the public debt as a means of control”.
He was also accused of anti-Semitism last month when he claimed the Jews paid less tax than other Greeks.
The leader has also spoken of a ”neo-liberal avalanche“ wiping out Greece’s economy and pride.