Greece's Tsipras calls confidence vote after ally quits coalition

Skopje Center in Macedonia

In the euro area's latest sign of political instability, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos withdrew his party from the governing coalition on Sunday over a name dispute with neighboring Macedonia.

If the government loses, the next general election, due to be held in the autumn, could be brought forward.

His left-wing Syriza party has 145 deputies in the legislature, and the prime minister may need votes from opposition lawmakers to pass the deal.

Parliamentary speaker Talad Xhaferi said 81 MPs voted in favour of the name change in the 120-seat chamber, securing the required two-thirds majority. A Greek government spokeswoman said the timeline for possible North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ratification will be clarified next week.

Prime Minister Tsipras still needs parliament to ratify the deal and that has become more hard.

Macedonia was founded in 1991 and recognized by the United Nations in 1993, but was accepted to the United Nations membership with the name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) due to Greek objection to the name Macedonia.

New Democracy on Sunday described the end of the Tsipras-Kammenos coalition as "a staged governmental divorce".

ANEL leader Kammenos has long promised to reject the Prespes Agreement but several of his MPs have said publicly they will support it, generating new internal break-up scenarios each day.

Tensions between the two partners climaxed last week over the agreement Greece sealed with the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia to change its name to Republic of North Macedonia. Now, "we will immediately proceed with the process to renew the parliamentary support" for the government, the prime minister said.

The Independent Greeks - the small party which Kammenos leads - formed a coalition with Tsipras in 2015, giving the prime minister a slim majority in parliament.

The first casualty in Athens is Kammenos, who, after meeting with Tsipras January 13, said "The Macedonia name issue... doesn't allow me not to sacrifice the minister's chair".

The main opposition New Democracy party, widely favoured to win the next elections whenever they are held this year, has said it will block the deal which it faults over its treatment of the "Macedonian" nationality question.

Tsipras has said that the chamber would be asked to ratify the agreement with Macedonia by the end of the month.

Kammenos, who forged a coalition pact with Tsipras in 2015, never concealed his hostility to the deal with Skopje, which renames the tiny Balkan country Republic of North Macedonia.

"Our parliament found the strength but it wasn't easy". The country exited a bailout programme in mid-2018.

For many Greeks, Macedonia is the name of a history-rich northern province that was the cradle of Alexander the Great's ancient empire.

In the Macedonian capital of Skopje, Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov told a press conference Sunday that he has been "assured" by a Greek government official that Athens remains "strongly committed" to completing its part of the name change deal.



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