Greek Leader Tsipras Barely Wins Confidence Vote, Name Deal with Macedonia Still in Doubt
The ratification of the Greece – Macedonia name dispute deal is next on the agenda of the Greek Parliament but remains far from certain.
Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has won a confidence vote in the Greek Parliament by a very narrow margin called over last year’s name dispute deal with neighboring Macedonia, which the Greek legislature still needs to ratify.
Tsipras won the confidence motion late on Wednesday night with 151 votes in favor vs. 148 votes against, a margin of only 3 votes, The Greek Reporter reports.
The Greek leader himself called for the confidence vote on Sunday after his junior coalition partner, the ANEL party, exited the ruling coalition generating major political uncertainly, including speculations for the possibility of early elections.
The ANEL party’s move came in opposition to the name deal negotiated last year by Tsipras and Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, in the so called Prespa / Prespes Agreement.
Under it, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia would adopt the name “Republic of North Macedonia”, while Greece would recognize its new name, and lift its vetoes to the former’s accession talks with NATO and the EU.
Greece has been vetoing Macedonia’s bids to join the EU and NATO since it insists the name of the former Yugoslav republic threatens its national integrity as northern Greek administrative districts are also named “Macedonia”.
Greek Prime Minister Tsipras also won Wednesday night’s confidence vote only with the help of defectors – four out of a total of seven ANEL MPs and two MPs classified technically as independents helped his government stay in power.
Tsipras’s win of the confidence motion after two days of heated debates has paved the way for the Greek Parliament’s vote on the Macedonia name deal, which is expected to come early next week, eKathimerini reports.
Nonetheless, it remains uncertain whether Greece’s legislature would ratify it even by a narrow margin.
Nationalist-minded Greek critics of the name dispute deal argue that by approving it, Greece would give away the name of an Ancient Greek province, Macedonia, allowing the citizens of its northern neighbor to be officially named Macedonians, and their language Macedonian, with respect to accession talks for NATO and the EU as well as (North) Macedonia’s seat in the UN.
“I took the risk showing political courage because what we have ahead of us demands clear solutions,” Tsipras said in a speech before the confidence motion.
Tsipras can count on 149 certain votes for the Macedonia name deal ratification – the 145 MPs of SYRIZA and four independents.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of the opposition conservative New Democracy party, which is presently doing much better in public opinion polls than Tsipras’s leftist SYRIZA, once again called for early elections.
“[The confidence vote is like an] approval of the shipwrecked state of the country over the last four years… [it] will pave the way for the recognition of a so-called Macedonian ethnicity and language, as stated in the Prespes accord,” Mitsotakis said.
(Banner image: Alexis Tsipras on Twitter)