Greek PM to face confidence vote after Macedonia row

Athens (AFP) –


Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras headed into a confidence vote Wednesday with his political future on the line after a row over a landmark name deal with Macedonia sunk his four-year coalition.

Tsipras is expected to win the vote in parliament, which will be held after midnight, but the subsequent fate of his government is less clear.

His Syriza party has 145 lawmakers in the 300-seat chamber, and he can survive even with 120 votes if enough MPs abstain.

Tsipras is expected to secure at least 151 votes thanks to the backing of a number of independent MPs.

But it's unclear whether he will be able to complete his four-year term, which ends in September.

The 44-year-old leftist leader on Tuesday insisted his government "has another nine months and very important tasks to carry out," pointing to elections in October.

Among his goals are a revision of the constitution, a minimum wage increase and the completion of a property deal with the church that was recently blocked by senior bishops.

"We do not seek (the support of) 151 lawmakers just to complete our term, but in order to carry out specific political initiatives," government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told Open TV on Wednesday.

- Coalition in crisis -

Even if he survives Wednesday's vote, Tsipras faces an immediate challenge to also secure the approval of a controversial name deal with neighbouring Macedonia.

Last year's agreement with Skopje to rename the country the Republic of North Macedonia, ending a 27-year diplomatic dispute, broke up Tsipras' coalition with the nationalist ANEL party at the weekend, ending a four-year partnership.

Macedonian lawmakers last week approved a constitutional revision to rename their country, but the agreement will only come into effect if backed by the Greek parliament.

Athens has not given a date for the vote on the Macedonia deal, but Tsipras recently said it would be before the end of January.

The European Union and NATO have hailed the deal, which would lift Greek objections to Macedonia joining both organisations.

The proposal faces resistance in Greece because of what critics see as the implied claims to Greek land and cultural heritage.

For most Greeks, Macedonia is the name of their history-rich northern province made famous by Alexander the Great's conquests.

In many cities in northern Greece, posters were put up overnight to urge local lawmakers to vote against the deal.

"Will you betray our Macedonia?" the posters read, each bearing the name and picture of local MPs from the Syriza and ANEL parties.