Junior coalition partner exits govt, new DM announced; Tsipras promises vote of confidence

Sunday, 13 January 2019 12:47

The small right-wing Independent Greeks (AN.EL) party will leave the ruling coalition, outgoing Defense Minister and party president Panos Kammenos said on Sunday, immediately after his concluded meeting with leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The development means the outspoken Kammenos will also leave the Cabinet post he has held since January 2015.

Nevertheless, he did not clarify if his party's remaining deputies in Parliament, six, along with Kammenos himself, seven, will continue to support the government, i.e. in the face of a possible no-confidence motion.

The current chief of the Greek armed forces' general staff, Adm. Evangelos Apostolakis, will assume the defense portfolio, months before a general election must be held in the east Mediterranean country.

Unconfirmed reports say Tsipras will ask Parliament for a vote of confidence, echoing a promise made earlier in the week.

Kammenos will also follow up with the press conference, possibly on Sunday.

What remains to be seen is how many of the AN.EL MPs and cadres currently holding down Cabinet posts, such as Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura, will actually follow Kammenos' lead. Additionally, three or four of his deputies appear positive over voting for the provisional Prespa pact and extending support to the remaining hard leftist government.

Later reports had the 53-year-old Kammenos, a career politician known for his nationalist and highly populist rhetoric, saying his party's MPs will be instructed not to support the Tsipras government in Parliament.

Tsipras, the once firebrand leftist SYRIZA leader and Europe's anti-austerity "fair-haired boy" before his election in January 2015, is scheduled to deliver an address on Sunday evening to solidify shaky support for the provisional Prespa agreement, the reason behind the political "divorce" that broke up the "strange bedfellows" coalition running the recession-battered country since 2015. The agreement, between Athens and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), was signed last June, despite Kammenos' standing opposition. It aims to resolve the "name issue" separating the two countries, whereby fYRoM - which uses its constitutional "Republic of Macedonia" - will change to "North Macedonia" in all domestic and foreign uses. Opposition in Greece mostly centers on the name that will still apply to citizens of the one-time Yugoslav constituent state, "Macedonians", as well as the name of the dominant Slavic language in the country.

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