Prompting a cycle of fresh political upheaval, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said he would call a confidence vote in his government this week after his junior coalition partner Panos Kammenos announced on Sunday that he was quitting the government due to his objections with Tsipras on the Prespes name deal.
“For almost four years I had an honorable cooperation with Panos Kammenos,” Mr. Tsipras told reporters on Sunday after his talks with the leader of Independent Greeks (ANEL) whom he thanked for his “irreplaceable, important contribution” to the government, noting that the two coalition partners' differences on other issues were “well-known.”
Tsipras said he had asked the Parliament speaker to start the process “immediately” for a vote of confidence. The vote was expected to take place on Wednesday in line with a proposal by Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis for two days of debate instead of three was approved.
Tsipras also announced he will replace Kammenos with Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff, effective from Tuesday.
The premier’s comments came after Kammenos told reporters he was quitting the coalition. "The issue of Macedonia does not allow me not to sacrifice the office…I revoke my support for the government,” he said.
“ANEL are leaving the government," he said though the stance of his ministers and MPs remained unclear.
At a press conference later in the day, Kammenos said he would vote against the government in the confidence motion. He added that any ANEL ministers who insist on retaining their cabinet position would be expelled from the party.
The ANEL leader also called for a referendum on the name deal which he described as “a capitulation.”
Groups opposing deal have called for a protest rally outside Parliament for January 20.
In a statement, the main conservative opposition party New Democracy, which is leading leftist SYRIZA in opinion polls by a large margin and also strongly opposes the deal, described Kammenos’s departure from the government as a “staged divorce, a show aimed at ratifying the Prespes deal, keeping SYRIZA in power and keeping Kammenos and his MPs in their posts.” “This show must come to an end,” ND added.
The Prespes deal, which passed through Skopje’s Parliament on Friday, must also gain approval in Greece’s Parliament to be valid. Tsipras suggested in an interview last week that it would take place later this month.
In his comments on Sunday, Tsipras said that he had accepted Mr Kammenos’s resignation and would also accept any other resignations, widely seen as a nod to ANEL ministers to stay on in the government.