Calls for coup, firing squads: Greek far right angry at name deal

Far-right parties, groups and newspapers have responded to North Macedonia name deal with outrage.

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    Greeks rally against a name deal between Athens and Skopje [Giannis Papanikos/AP Photo]
    Greeks rally against a name deal between Athens and Skopje [Giannis Papanikos/AP Photo]

    Athens, Greece - Anger is mounting in Greece over an historic agreement between Athens and Skopje, with far-right calls for military rule and firing squads to execute politicians. 

    Nikos Voutsis, a member of the ruling Syriza party and president of the Greek parliament, on Friday called for an emergency meeting to temporarily ban the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party from parliament. 

    The party was subsequently barred from discussions on a no-confidence measure moving forward. 

    "I call on the country's military leadership to respect its oath: to arrest Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras [Defence Minister] Panos Kammenos and President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in order to prevent this treason," Golden Dawn parliamentarian Constantinos Barbarousis said.

    Other members of the party who attended the session cheered and clapped as Barbarousis made the remarks. 

    The comments were made during a debate over the no-confidence motion filed by the centre-right New Democracy party on Thursday in the wake of the government announcing a name deal between Greece and its northern neighbour. 

    Voutsis ordered that Golden Dawn be temporarily banned from parliament owing to its lawmaker's "open call for a coup".

    Later on Friday, Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos expelled Barbarousis from the party's parliamentary group. 

    Giorgos Kiritsis, a Syriza parliamentarian, said the Barbarousis' comments create a "dangerous situation".

    "The extremists of Golden Dawn are threatening democracy and threatening their political adversaries, saying that they want their heads," Kiritsis told Al Jazeera, explaining that Barbarousis's remarks are part of a broader wave of far-right "incitement to violence".

    Announced earlier this week, the agreement is expected to be signed in the coming days.

    On June 12, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev announced that the agreement was reached and would see the country's name changed to the Republic of North Macedonia.

    In Greece, where a northern region is called 'Macedonia', there has been strong opposition to allowing the country's northern neighbour to use any version of the name.

    Far-right parties, groups and newspapers have responded to the deal with anger, some of them calling for violence and others calling for the government to be removed.

    Protesters demonstrate against the agreement reached by Greece and Macedonia to resolve a name dispute [Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]

    The two countries have been at loggerheads over the name for decades, and it has been a barrier to joining NATO and the European Union for the Republic of Macedonia since it became independent in 1991.

    Although the country was admitted into the United Nations as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), upwards of 140 countries refer to it as the Republic of Macedonia. 

    In Skopje, there has also been a heavy backlash against the agreement, with the president declaring his refusal to sign off on the deal.  

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    "There is a question of the justice system and what they do when they hear calls for a coup," Kiritsis added. "This is open call for military intervention.

    Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis subsequently ordered an investigation into the legislator's comments, and Defence Minister Panos Kammenos called for criminal charges to be filed. 

    A supreme court prosecutor also ordered a probe into whether the comments constituted treason. 

    'Fatal blow' 

    Barbarousis's comments fall in a broader wave of calls for the government, which is currently ruled by a coalition between the left-wing Syriza party and right-wing junior coalition partner ANEL, to be punished.

    At the time of publication, Golden Dawn's press office had not replied to Al Jazeera's request for comment.

    In a statement published on its website, the far-right party accused Voutsis of a "Stalinist measure" by striving to remove Golden Dawn from parliament.

    That statement also said the government "has no right to make anti-Hellenic decisions" like the name deal.

    On Wednesday, Ilias Zagoreos, the head of Athens's First-Instance Prosecutor's office, ordered the investigation into potential incitement to commit a crime and other infractions by a right-wing tabloid.

    The move came after the tabloid, Makeleio, published an edition with a front-page image depicting the prime minister, president and foreign minister being executed by a firing squad for supposedly "selling out" Greece's exclusive right to the name 'Macedonia'.

    "At eight metres, like Beloyiannis," Makeleio's cover story was titled, referring to Nikos Beloyannis, a Greek communist rebel leader who was executed in 1952.

    Greek PM Alexis Tsipras addresses the parliament ahead of a debate over the name deal [Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]

    "The puppets of the collaborators handed over our Macedonia to the Albanian-Slavs with the false name 'North Macedonia'," the subheading read.

    "Pavlopoulos - Tsipras - Kotzias: firing squad with a shot in the head for the fatal blow."

    On Thursday, the tabloid's publisher, Stefanos Chios, was arrested outside his offices in the Kallithea area of Athens in relation to the investigation, the Greek daily Ekathimerini reported.

    The name deal has also prompted a backlash from some centrist and left-wing parties, including the Greek Communist Party (KKE).

    Citing US, EU and NATO support for the agreement, the KKE said in a statement that it "cannot provide a solution for the benefit of the Greek people, the people of the neighbouring country and all the peoples of the region".

    On Saturday, a rally against the deal is slated to take place in the northern coastal city of Thessaloniki.

    Petros Constantinou, national director of the Athens-based anti-fascist group Keerfa, warned that far-right groups have capitalised on anger over the name deal to gain currency among everyday Greeks.

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    "The nationalist campaign for the name of 'Macedonia' is a chance for the far-right and the neo-Nazis in Golden Dawn to attempt to gain legitimacy in the streets," he told Al Jazeera.

    "They are organising, by wearing the mask of patriotism, to appeal to a national audience."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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