Published: Mon, January 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Greece's PM faces confidence vote after coalition ally quits

Greece's PM faces confidence vote after coalition ally quits

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos of the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL) said Sunday that his party will leave the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of SYRIZA ahead of a crucial vote in the Parliament to end a 27-year dispute with Macedonia.

He described the Macedonia deal - under which Greece's tiny northern neighbour will be renamed as the Republic of North Macedonia - as a national sellout.

The newspaper, however, noted that there are now difficulties in the Greek parliament, which also needs to ratify the Prespa agreement.

Al Jazeera's Catherine Stancl reports.

Tsipras said he had a "frank discussion" with Kammenos, whom he thanked for his government partnership, and announced that Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will become the country's new defence minister. He provocatively stated that he would vote against his former SYRIZA allies if they moved to ratify the Prespes Agreement. He said 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.

Macedonian lawmakers approved the agreement late Friday. Polls indicate it will probably fail to obtain the minimum three percent of the popular vote needed to meet the Greek parliamentary election threshold.

But a change of government in Macedonia in 2017 finally led to the deal reached past year.

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"Our parliament found the strength but it wasn't easy. But I am convinced that the Greek parliament will also find the strength to make the decision", he said. In a press conference later that same day, Kammenos was highly critical of the non-democratic tactics PM Zaev had used in Skopje for the last several months to get the 81 votes required to pass the constitutional amendments.

Athens argues that use of the term "Macedonia" implies territorial claims on Greece's northern province of the same name, and on its ancient Greek heritage.

The freaky political row centres around the tiny country of Macedonia's new name - the Republic of North Macedonia.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the parliament's decision, praising the Macedonian leader's "vision, courage and persistence" in seeking a resolution to the dispute with Greece that would allow it to join North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union.

Kommersant estimates that the adoption of constitutional changes can have another effect, important not only for that Balkan state, adding that "in the opinion of regional experts, this can influence the granting of autocephaly to the Macedonian Orthodox Church". It began almost three decades ago, with Macedonia's declaration of independence, but has roots dating back centuries.

In June a year ago, the two countries reached an agreement. Their efforts brought the pair a nomination for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

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