Another vehement political debate is expected in Parliament on Friday ahead of a vote on the so-called accession protocol for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to join NATO under the new name North Macedonia.
Political tensions have risen following the decision by six MPs – four independents and two Independent Greeks (ANEL) lawmakers – to align themselves with SYRIZA in forthcoming votes and amid opposition questions about the content of talks between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Rhetoric is expected to peak again this evening in the House though the protocol is widely expected to pass with the backing of the above six MPs and some opposition lawmakers.
The protocol was approved on Thursday following a debate at the committee level during which ANEL leader Panos Kammenos, who quit the government last month, said he will insist on an enhanced majority of 180 votes in the 300-seat House for the protocol which, he said, cedes Greek sovereign rights.
During the debate that followed Kammenos’s proposal, SYRIZA MPs highlighted conservative New Democracy’s opposition to the protocol, claiming that it clashed with the party’s traditional stance on NATO and the European Union.
ND’s shadow foreign minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos rebuffed the accusations, noting that the party “has opposed both friends and allies on occasion” and accusing SYRIZA of seeking approval everywhere. “The protocol is a formal follow-up to the Prespes deal which is harmful for the country,” Koumoutsakos said. “That’s why we can’t vote for it.”
Political developments are expected ahead of the vote on Friday. Kammenos on Thursday told ANEL MP Thanasis Papachristopoulos, who backed the Prespes deal and supported the government in a confidence vote, that if he does not give up his parliamentary seat by Friday he will be expelled from the party.
In any case, the prospects of survival for ANEL’s parliamentary group are dim, with Papachristopoulos’s expected departure to take it below the minimum of five MPs.
Parliament’s Scientific Council on Thursday rejected a request by Kammenos to amend a rule stipulating that the MPs in any parliamentary group must have all been voted into Parliament with the same party.
One of ANEL’s remaining MPs, Aristeidis Fokas, initially entered Parliament on the Union of Centrists’ ticket.
Once the vote is out of the way, Tsipras is expected to conduct a light reshuffle, probably focusing on deputy ministers, as Katerina Notopoulou and Nasos Iliopoulos, deputy ministers for Macedonia-Thrace and labor respectively, are to run in the mayoral races in Thessaloniki and Athens.
Ahead of European and local authority elections in May, the government is keen to recoup losses suffered in northern Greece due to its Prespes deal compromise.