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Greek govt collapses over Macedonia name change deal

ATHENS: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras on Sunday called for an “immediate” confidence vote in parliament over the resignation of a top minister, after his coalition government collapsed in a row over a name change deal with Macedonia.

The move raises the possibility of snap elections and came after Defence Minister Panos Kammenos resigned in protest over an agreement to end the 27-year Macedonia name dispute.

“We will proceed immediately to the renewal of the confidence in our government by the parliament in order to proceed with the major issues for our country,” Tspiras said.

Parliament speaker Nikos Voutsis suggested a debate on the confidence motion could start on Tuesday, with a vote on Wednesday night. Tsipras’ leftist party Syriza has 145 deputies in the 300-member Greek Parliament but could win the confidence vote with just 120 votes if enough lawmakers abstain.

Kammenos, who is head of the nationalist Independent Greeks party (ANEL) which has seven MPs, said he was “sacrificing” his post over the Macedonia name issue.

“I thanked the prime minister for the cooperation and I explained to him that for this national issue we cannot continue,” Kammenos said, adding that his party “is pulling out of the government”.

Macedonian lawmakers voted on Friday to rename their country the Republic of North Macedonia but the agreement will only come into effect with backing from the Greek parliament.

The proposal faces resistance in Greece, which has a northern province of the same name, over implied claims to Greek territory. For many Greeks, Macedonia is the name of a history-rich northern province that was the cradle of Alexander the Great’s ancient empire.

If a motion of no-confidence had been tabled by the opposition, the voting math would have been more difficult for Tsipras as the government would have needed 151 votes to avoid an election.

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