ATHENS – With his government at risk of coming apart over a deal to rename the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM,) Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said he would seek a confidence vote in Parliament if his coalition partner, the Independent Greeks (ANEL) vote against it.
Defense Minister and ANEL leader Panos Kammenos said he wants his seven-member group of lawmakers to reject the agreement and would yank the party from the coalition if it comes to a vote but has waffled repeatedly on his intentions.
As many as four of his Members of Parliament said they’re leaning toward supporting the deal to rename FYROM as North Macedonia, giving away the name of the ancient Greek province of Macedonia forever, which the nationalist Kammenos said he can’t abide.
That could bring down the administration – although Tsipras said he would seek to rule as a minority government if he can’t find another partner and doesn’t have a majority vote in Parliament, but said he has enough votes from rival parties without ANEL for the FYROM name deal to be approved.
Speaking in an interview with the Open TV channel, he said he believes Kammenos will stick to what he said previously – that he won’t bring down the government or “pour more water on the mill” and “facilitate the plans of our political opponents.”
But after ANEL voted last year against a no-confidence vote brought by the major opposition New Democracy Conservatives who Tsipras unseated in 2015, Kammenos said if another confidence vote was brought that he would go against the Premier.
Tsipras appeared unconcerned after reports he would try to slug on without a majority in Parliament despite criticism from rivals a minority government was unfeasible and unlawful and wouldn’t last.
“Even if you haven’t got 151 lawmakers, you have no problem by the Constitution in carrying on,” Tsipras said, adding, however, that we would have a “political problem,” as he would no longer have a majority in the 300-member body where seven ANEL votes and one Independent give him a three-vote edge.
“In such an eventuality, I will proceed in due time with snap elections, whose timing will depend on the crucial initiatives we have said we will implement. But I’m saying that there is no such thing as an impasse in democracy. I believe I will secure a confidence vote,” he said despite signs he won’t.
He had said repeatedly that he would not call early elections but with ANEL polling at only around 1 percent, far below the 3 percent threshold needed to get back into Parliament, Kammenos is trying to find some way to rebuild the voter base he lost when he, as did Tsipras, reneged on anti-austerity promises.
Tsipras said he would bring the FYROM deal, which allows residents of what would be North Macedonia to be called Macedonians and have a Macedonian language, culture and identity to Parliament as soon as it is approved by lawmakers in Greece’s neighbor.
He warned if Greece refuses to ratify it after FYROM has been made to change its constitution to drop irredentist claims on Greek territories, including the real Macedonia and second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki that Greece “will become an international laughing stock,” and the deal collapse.