After more than two days of vehement debate in Parliament, the government on Saturday survived a no-confidence vote brought against it by the main opposition New Democracy party, but with one less MP.
The motion garnered 127 votes with 153 against. The junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) backed the government despite its opposition to the name deal with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced last week, bar one MP, Dimitris Kammenos, who backed the motion. He was subsequently expelled from the party, reducing the government’s majority to 153.
Before the vote, protesters gathered for the second day in a row outside the House to oppose the deal and riot police fired tear gas at one point to disperse demonstrators.
There was tension inside Parliament too, notably when Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias submitted declassified ministry documents in a bid to compare the government’s negotiating tactics on the name issue to that of previous administrations.
Addressing Parliament, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras slammed the opposition for bringing the motion of no confidence, remarking that “future historians will struggle to comprehend why, at such a positive moment for the country, ND chose to try and topple the government.”
ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared that “a vote against the motion of no confidence is a vote in favor of the Tsipras-Zaev agreement tomorrow,” referring to FYROM’s premier, Zoran Zaev. “I want all Greeks to understand the theater of hypocrisy that has been staged.”
Tsipras’s coalition partner Panos Kammenos reiterated his party’s opposition to the FYROM name deal, saying that ANEL will oppose it, when it comes to Parliament, “not just with our vote” but by any means possible. He stressed, however, that he remains allied to Tsipras for his declared fight against corruption and to get the country out of the bailout era.
The leader of centrist To Potami, Stavros Theodorakis, pointed to the positive aspects of the deal. “Helping our country doesn’t mean supporting the SYRIZA-ANEL government,” he added. The leader of Movement for Change, Fofi Gennimata, in which Theodorakis is a partner, opposed the deal, saying she trusts the government with “nothing.”
Former conservative premier Antonis Samaras also weighed in, condemning the government for conceding too much to FYROM. In his speech to MPs, Samaras criticized the left-led administration for recognizing a Macedonian ethnicity and language, and warned that the deal will fuel “aggressive irredentism,” creating instability in the wider region. “Either the deal will not last or it will cause turmoil,” Samaras said. “I fought for the Macedonia issue, you gave it all away,” he said.