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Greek government to hold confidence vote this week

The vote, prompted by the Macedonia name change row, is expected to take place on Wednesday

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Reuters
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Reuters

Greece is facing a fresh political crisis after prime minister Alexis Tsipras said he would call a confidence vote in his government this week following the withdrawal of junior coalition partner Panos Kammenos over the Macedonia name deal.

The confidence vote, involving 300 members of the Greek parliament, is expected to take place on Wednesday, according to newspaper Kathimerini.

"I believe the government will win the vote and will be able to...complete its (term)," government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told Alpha TV on Monday.

Mr Tsipras, leader of socialist party Syriza, made the announcement on Sunday evening after talks with defence minister Mr Kammenos, who heads populist party the Independent Greeks, led to him removing his support from the government.

At issue is the name of Greece’s neighbour the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which under the Prespes agreement agreed by the two countries, will be renamed the Republic of North Macedonia.

The deal, which has been ratified by Macedonia, ended a 27-year dispute between the two countries.

Athens had argued since the country voted for independence from that the name “Macedonia” could only be used to a province in Greece. It had long opposed the country’s use of the name saying that it had implied claim to Greek territory.

The end of the row will pave the way for Skopje to start accession talks with the European Union and Nato, having been blocked by Greece.

Mr Tsipras was praised internationally for the landmark deal, which has yet to be approved by the Greek parliament, before the breakdown of the coalition.

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Read more:

Macedonia lawmakers in final debate on renaming country

Deputies agree historic name change for Macedonia

To be or not to be Macedonia?

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Mr Kammenos said he and six other ministers from his party would immediately exit the government, after tensions over the name change boiled over.

“The issue of Macedonia, an issue for which thousands died, does not allow me not to sacrifice the minister’s chair,” he said.

The alliance between the two parties, on different ends of the political spectrum, was forged in 2015 and saw harsh austerity measures imposed on the country following years of instability as a result of the Greek government debt crisis.

Greece is due to hold national elections in October, although if the government loses the confidence ballot, the vote could be moved forward.

Alternatively, Mr Tsipras, who currently holds 145 seats in the 300-member parliament, could rule as a minority government in the meantime.

Syriza’s main rivals, conservative opposition party New Democracy, who are currently leading in the polls, described the departure as a “staged divorce, a show at ratifying the Prespes deal, keeping Syriza in power and keeping Kammenos and his MPs in their posts”.

“This show must come to an end,” New Democracy said in a statement.`

Updated: January 14, 2019 07:10 PM

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