Tsipras faces confidence vote over Macedonia deal

Tsipras faces confidence vote over Macedonia deal

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (pictured) has promised a confidence vote after his four-year-old governing coalition split over the proposed Macedonia name change.

Defence Minister Panos Kammenos withdrew his minority party’s support for the coalition, signalling his opposition ahead of an expected parliamentary vote.

The neighbouring countries agreed during the summer to the name “North Macedonia”, potentially ending a 27-year-long row, potentially opening the door to Nato and European Union membership.

“An early election is good news for investors,” said Wolfango Piccoli of London-based Teneo Intelligence. “The country has been in a election campaign mode for weeks, and the sooner the election takes place, the better.”

Greek nationalists say “Macedonia” can only refer to the Greek province of that name while Macedonian patriots also oppose the name change.

Kammenos’ resignation pushed Tsipras to pledge an immediate confidence vote, which is expected on Wednesday, according to the Kathimerini newspaper.

Tsipras’ Syriza has 145 seats in the 300-seat chamber and Kammenos has called on his Independent Greeks (Anel) party, which has seven MPs, to vote against the agreement.

If Tsipras loses the vote, the planned September general election could be held in the coming weeks.

The right-of-centre New Democracy main opposition says it will vote against the new name but some Anel MPs and independents might back the government in the confidence vote.

Ever-unreliable polling suggests Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s New Democracy would win the most votes at an election, although it is unclear whether he would gain a parliamentary majority.

Even if he loses the confidence vote, the timing of any new election is unclear as Tsipras has pledged to complete a series of measures to stabilise the economy, including constitutional reform, legislation to protect homeowners and in a minimum wage boost. A delay could prove damaging for Tsipras if his party loses MEPs in the European parliamentary elections in late May.

Announcing his resignation, Kammenos said the government had completed its purpose of negotiating the debt crisis.

Present-day Macedonia and northern Greece were both parts of the Roman province called Macedonia and both claim the heritage of Alexander the Great, although Greek nationalists say the use of the name implies territorial claims.

Greek objections have forced the UN since 1991 to clumsily refer to Macedonia as “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.

“If anything, the exit of Kammenos helps clear some of the uncertainty of the last few days which were marred by his backpedaling,” said Mujtaba Rahman of the Eurasia Group in London.

Alexis Tsipras. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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