Tsipras calls for confidence vote
Ballot to be held this week after junior coalition partner Kammenos quits government over Prespes deal
Prompting a cycle of fresh political upheaval, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said yesterday that he would call a confidence vote in his government this week after his coalition partner Panos Kammenos said he was quitting the government due to his objections to the Prespes deal between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over the latter’s name.
“For almost four years I had an honorable cooperation with Panos Kammenos,” Tsipras told reporters after his talks with the leader of nationalist right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL), whom he thanked for his “irreplaceable, important contribution” to the government. Tsipras said he had asked the Parliament speaker to start the process “immediately” for a vote of confidence. The vote was expected to take place on Wednesday night in line with a proposal by Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis.
Tsipras also announced that he will replace Kammenos in his capacity as defense minister with Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff.
The premier’s comments came after Kammenos told reporters he was quitting the coalition. “The issue of Macedonia does not allow me not to sacrifice the office,” he said. “ANEL is leaving the government,” he added, though the stance of his ministers and MPs remained unclear.
At a press conference later, Kammenos said he would vote against the government in the confidence motion. He added that any ANEL ministers who insist on retaining their cabinet positions would be expelled from the party. The ANEL leader also called for a referendum on the name deal, which he described as “a capitulation.”
Groups opposing the deal have called for a protest outside Parliament for January 20.
The conservative opposition party New Democracy, which is leading leftist SYRIZA in opinion polls by a large margin and also strongly opposes the deal, described Kammenos’s departure from the government as a “staged divorce, a show aimed at ratifying the Prespes deal, keeping SYRIZA in power and keeping Kammenos and his MPs in their posts.”
The Prespes deal, which passed through Skopje’s Parliament on Friday, must also gain approval in Greece’s Parliament to be valid. Tsipras said in an interview last week that it would take place this month.