Kammenos leaves ruling coalition in Greece ahead of Macedonia name vote

Clay Curtis
January 14, 2019

Parliamentary elections are due in Greece by October.

The survival of Tsipras, who led Greece through high-drama bailout standoffs and forged an unlikely bond with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, hinges on his Independent Greeks coalition ally, whose seven seats in the 300-member parliament give it the balance of power.

The crisis left the fate of a 2018 deal changing the name of Macedonia to North Macedonia in limbo. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and EU Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn - frequent visitors and now household names in Macedonia/FYROM - were the first to back the move, nearly in real time, with Washington's minimalist statement emerging a day later.

New Democracy on Sunday described the end of the Tsipras-Kammenos coalition as "a staged governmental divorce".

Tsipras hopes to rely on lawmakers from the small pro-EU To Potami (The River) party to get the agreement approved, while some of ANEL's lawmakers also remain ambivalent to the deal.

The Macedonian parliament has amended the constitution to rename the country as the Republic of Northern Macedonia.

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". Macedonia said it would change its name, and Greece said it would drop its objection to the neighboring country's entry into the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation if the changes are formally adopted.

Calling an early election has its pitfalls, as U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May can attest.

Defence Minister and a leader of the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL) party Panos Kammenos announced that the split within the coalition was caused by different views on the Macedonia name issue.

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Tsipras has said that the chamber would be asked to ratify the agreement with Macedonia by the end of the month.

The deal struck by Mr Tsipras and Mr Zaev came after a change of the Government in Macedonia in 2017, which led to a more distended relationship.

"Our parliament found the strength but it wasn't easy".

Since 1991, Athens has objected to its neighbour being called Macedonia because it has a northern province of the same name.

Zaev said on January 12 that the lawmakers had "made history", adding: "I know how hard that was".

Syriza is trailing between eight and 12 points behind the main conservative New Democracy party, which also opposed the deal with Macedonia, in pre-election polls.

And, he concluded, Macedonia is a name intrinsically linked with the Greek culture, which recalls the triumphs of the era of warrior king Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia.

In the Macedonian capital of Skopje, Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov told a press conference Sunday that he has been "assured" by a Greek government official that Athens remains "strongly committed" to completing its part of the name change deal.

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