Greek PM wins confidence vote after Macedonia name crisis

The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has won a confidence vote in parliament, clearing a major hurdle for Greece’s approval of an accord to end a dispute over Macedonia’s name and averting the prospect of a snap election.

Tsipras called the confidence motion after his rightwing coalition partner Panos Kammenos quit the government on Sunday in protest at the name deal signed between Athens and Skopje last year.

Parliament gave Tsipras 151 votes, meeting the threshold he required in the 300-member assembly. His leftist party, Syriza, has 145 seats in parliament. Additional support was given by defectors of Kammenos’s Independent Greeks party (ANEL) and independents.

Tsipras told parliament: “I call upon you with hand on heart to give a vote of confidence to the government which gave battle, which bled, but managed to haul the country out of memorandums and surveillance,” referring to Greece’s international lenders, who kept the country on a tight leash for years.

He described the vote – which coincided with a similar one called by Teresa May over her Brexit deal – as a “vote of confidence in stability”. “Our only concern is to continue to address the needs and interests of the Greek people,” he said.

Greek opponents of the agreement say Macedonia’s new name – the Republic of North Macedonia, reached after decades of dispute between Athens and Skopje – represents an attempt to appropriate Greek identity.

Macedonia is the name of Greece’s largest northern region. The deal was signed between the two countries in June 2018, contingent on ratification of parliaments in both countries and a necessary step for the small Balkan state to be considered for European Union and Nato membership.

The Macedonian parliament ratified the pact last week. It has yet to be voted on in Greece, although the vote is expected this month.

Tsipras, whose four-year term expires in October, has faced down parliament before on the Macedonia deal. He survived a no-confidence vote mounted by the opposition when the two states agreed on a compromise in June.

Setting the stage for more acrimony over an issue that is a red flag for many Greeks, opposition parties have decried the deal as a national sell-out, while demonstrators plan to protest in Athens on Sunday.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of the conservative main opposition party, New Democracy, told parliament during the confidence debate: “This is a nationally damaging agreement.” He repeatedly called the administration “a ragbag government” clutching at straws to stay in power.

“Elections are the only solution for the country to move ahead … for Greeks to take their fate into their hands. Just leave,” he said.