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  • Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras makes statements to the press after his meeting with former coalition partner Panos Kammenos in Athens, Greece, Jan.13, 2019.

    Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras makes statements to the press after his meeting with former coalition partner Panos Kammenos in Athens, Greece, Jan.13, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 January 2019

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for a confidence vote after his coalition ally quit over northern neighbor's name change from Macedonia to North Macedonia. 

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras Sunday said he would call a confidence vote in his government after his coalition ally quit, in protest of an accord seeking to end a decades-old row over the name of neighboring Macedonia.

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Tsipras has said he would ask for a confidence vote before the Macedonia deal comes to parliament if his junior coalition partner Panos Kammenos, head of the right-wing Independents Greeks party, withdrew his support for the ruling coalition.

The crisis has put the fate of a 2018 deal changing the name of Macedonia to North Macedonia into legal doubt since Greek parliamentary endorsement of the name is required for the tiny Balkan nation to join the European Union and NATO. Macedonia’s parliament has already ratified the accord with a constitutional amendment.

Outgoing Defense Minister Panos Kammenos’s Independent Greeks party gave seven MPs to the coalition, enough to get Tsipras’s administration past the threshold of 150 deputies in the 300-member parliament. Tsipras’s Syriza party has 145 seats and also the support of one independent lawmaker.

“I have taken my decision and have informed the president of parliament that we will immediately move to the process outlined by the constitution for the renewal of the confidence in my government,” Tsipras told journalists.

The confidence vote is expected to take place later this week and parliamentary speaker Nikos Voutsis proposed Jan. 16. He said that he would make the suggestion at a meeting of party leaders Monday.

Kammenos said Sunday he would not support Alexis Tsipras in a confidence vote in parliament. It was not immediately clear if the six other lawmakers from Kammenos’ party would follow his lead.

Syriza is trailing between eight and 12 points behind the main conservative New Democracy party, which also opposed the deal with Macedonia, in pre-election polls.

The leftist leader, Tsipras was elected in 2015 on a platform of anti-austerity but was forced into a third international bailout to bring back Greece from the brink of bankruptcy. The country exited a bailout program in mid-2018.

Greece has a province that goes by the same name of Macedonia and has long demanded that Skopje, the capital of the country of Macedonia to change its name to remove what Athens considered to be an implied claim on Greek sovereign territory.

The wrangle had long frustrated Macedonia’s EU and NATO aspirations. Greece is a member of both institutions and has a say in who gets to join, like other member countries.

Kammenos said that any deal including “Macedonia” in the name of the Balkan state to Greece’s north was unacceptable as the name was irrevocably tied to Greek civilization and culture.

The Greek parliament’s vote on the name deal has been expected later this month. The government hopes the pact will pass with the support of center-left and independent lawmakers.

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