Greek Defense Minister Resigns Over Macedonia Name Deal

Alexis Tsipras has called a confidence vote after Defense Minister and coalition partner Panos Kammenos resigned

His Defence Minister, Panos Kammenos, resigned on Sunday and took with him his 7 MPs, effectively leaving Mr Tsipras party Syriza without a majority. Parliamentary elections are scheduled in October but local media speculate that polls could be held in May, coinciding with European parliament and local elections, or even sooner.

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.

Macedonia's parliament ratified the name change deal on Friday, but it will not go into effect until Athens does the same.

Mr Kammenos had threatened to pull out of the government when the name deal comes to a vote in Athens from the moment Mr Tsipras signed it with Zoran Zaev, the Macedonian prime minister, in the border Prespes region in June. Insisting that the name apply only to the Greek region, the Greeks have been blocking the Macedonian republic's entry to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union membership.

The future of the ruling coalition government remains unclear.

The New Democracy member allegedly revealed the personal mobile phone numbers of ANEL MPs.

Zaev, who came to power in May 2017, is now looking to his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras to uphold his end of the deal, which the pair brokered past year.

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Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said, in response, that he will ask for a vote of confidence in Parliament in the coming week.

The first casualty in Athens is Kammenos, who, after meeting with Tsipras January 13, said "The Macedonia name issue... doesn't allow me not to sacrifice the minister's chair". He said any deal including "Macedonia" in the name of the Balkan state to Greece's north was unacceptable as the name was irrevocably tied to Greek civilization and culture.

"Our parliament found the strength but it wasn't easy". The change of name, if cleared by Athens, would pave the way for the small republic to enter North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union. "But I am convinced that the Greek parliament will also find the strength to make the decision", he said.

"If anything, the exit of Kammenos helps clear some of the uncertainty of the last few days which were marred by his backpedaling", said Mujtaba Rahman, managing director at Eurasia Group in London.

Fearing Macedonia would try to annex Greek Macedonia, the Greece Government refused to accept the new country's name, and faced the United Nation to refer to it as "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". In ancient times it was the cradle of Alexander the Great's empire, a source of intense pride for modern-day Greeks.

A spokesperson for the governing Social Democrats said the ethnic Albanian legislators also agreed to back the deal.

Greece has a province called Macedonia and long demanded Skopje change its country's name to remove what Athens considered to be an implied claim to Greek sovereign territory.

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