NEWS

Moscow accuses US of 'vote rigging,' as Tsipras seeks to contain fallout from FM's resignation

TAGS: Politics, Diplomacy

Moscow has accused the US of intervening in a parliamentary vote last Friday in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that backed changing the Balkan country’s name.

“The US ambassador [in FYROM] was in the Parliament building up to the end of the session, and this is why there is no doubt that he orchestrated the process,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday.

It claimed that the eight votes had been secured “through blackmail, and threatening and bribing opposition deputies.”

“We view what happened as an open violation of all norms, both from a legal and moral point of view. Such dirty manipulations cannot be regarded as an expression of parliamentarians’ will,” it said.

The name deal paves the way for FYROM to join NATO, which is something vehemently opposed by Moscow.

Meanwhile, with the deal inching closer to ratification, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is seeking to contain any potential fallout sparked by the resignation of Nikos Kotzias as foreign minister last week and to deal with the volatility of Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who is also the leader of junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) and a staunch opponent of the agreement.

Kotzias resigned last week after a clash with Kammenos over the deal but the government is reportedly seeking to avoid an escalation of tension. This was made clear in remarks Monday by government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos.

“Mr Kotzias is a political official and an intellectual that the prime minister respects, listens to and discusses [matters] with,” he said.

For his part, Kammenos is under increasing pressure from within ANEL to leave the coalition but insists he will remain until the deal goes to the Greek Parliament for ratification.

“When the deal comes to Parliament we will withdraw,” he told a meeting of ANEL’s national council on Sunday, and denounced critics of his stance, namely Deputy Foreign Minister for Diaspora Greeks Terence Quick, a leading party member.

“I take the responsibility and I promise you that these guys will have no position in ANEL,” he said in a comment seen to be directed at Quick.

A leakage of MPs to SYRIZA from ANEL could also be a source of tension in the coalition, according to sources.

Despite ANEL’s opposition to the deal, the government appears confident it has enough support to get it ratified in Parliament.

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