Athens.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA)
The government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras got a vote of confidence in parliament on Wednesday evening, with the support of 151 deputies, out of a total of 300. His victory clears major obstacle for Greece’s approval of a deal to end Macedonia name dispute.
The prime minister initiated the motion after the resignation of Panos Kammenos, leader of Independent Greeks (ANEL), the junior member of the ruling coalition. Kammenos, who served as National Defence minister, resigned over the Prespes Agreement.
“Today the Parliament gave a confidence vote to stability; a confidence vote for the effort to recover internationally the credibility of our country”, Prime Minister Tsipras said followed the result of the roll call.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accused main opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis of “theatricality” and of “shouting without substantive arguments,” during the debate in parliament over a vote of confidence on Wednesday evening.
“I called for this debate and the process of a vote of confidence in full understanding of the historicity of the times, and mainly with a complete sense of my duty toward parliament, the Greek people, and democracy,” Tsipras said.
He said he had the option of “hiding behind a vote of censure by the opposition,” but he told Mitsotakis “you would not win it, you would not be able to find 151 deputies supporting it.”
“I have taken the risk of asking for clear solutions,” he said.
The prime minister also charged Mitsotakis of demanding a vote of confidence and then not having the courage to table a motion of censure. “Now that I have dared (table a motion for confidence), you have an issue with it again,” Tsipras said, and called on each deputy to assume their patriotic and national duty.
Addressing himself to parties of the opposition, said, “You commit an injustice to yourselves with the criticism you exercise,” and said that his government needs to complete the critical issues ahead and requires the full confidence of parliament’s majority to reach the end of his full term in October 2019.
During his address – the last speech before the roll-call vote – Tsipras said that FYROM’s note verbale informing Greece that it had completed the terms of the Prespes Agreement just reached Athens, and told Mitsotakis there will be plenty of time to discuss it. He also challenged him to a TV channel of his choice.
The note verbale, he said, will clarify certain things in the most explicit and unquestionable way. “What do our neighbours clarify in this document, which is legally binding and repeats the terms of the Agreement?” Tsipras asked. “First, that the term ‘nationality’ refers exclusively to citizenship and neither declares nor presupposes the issue of ethnicity,” he continued. “Second, that the language of our neighbours, as referred to in the Agreement and recognized by the UN conference of 1977 belongs to the group of south Slavic languages.”
“So what do we have here, Mr. Mitsotakis? The full and complete deconstruction of the excuses you discovered in order to hide from the historical obligation allotted to you and your party,” Tsipras concluded.
“This is the last act of a political farce”, main opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, addressing the parliament during a plenary session on the vote of confidence.
Mitsotakis referred to the government’s decision to ask for a vote of confidence as a parliamentary maneuver with three different objectives, namely: to keep SYRIZA in office for a few more months; to pave the way for the Prespes Agreement, which is damaging for Greece’s national interests; and to provide a lifeline to the Independent Greeks (ANEL).
He then warned the government not to attempt any fast-track voting procedure and stated that the Prespes Agreement should be discussed at length in parliament, with all members expressing their opinions and assuming their responsibilities.
Furthermore, the New Democracy leader said of the fast-track procedure that it is a disgrace for the parliamentary system, since the government is not seeking to secure the support of the Greek people, but is instead looking for 151 deputies willing to attach themselves to SYRIZA’s rule.
Mitsotakis then accused the government of turning foreign policy into a tool for undermining Greece’s national identity, and stated that SYRIZA is responsible for the toxic climate currently reigning over the country.
Concerning the appointment of Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis as Defence Minister, Mitsotakis said that even though he honours the latter’s service as admiral, the prime minister’s decision to appoint a high-ranking military officer as head of the Defence Ministry was a “grave mistake, as it does not respect the separation of powers.”
About the Prespes Agreement, Mitsotakis said that a “yes” vote opens the path for the recognition of a so-called “Macedonian” identity and language, as this is the content of the agreement.
“Greece needs political stability”, Mitsotakis added, and expressed the opinion that the only way to achieve this is by going to elections as soon as possible.
Potami leader said he will not give the government a vote of confidence, in his address in parliament on Wednesday evening.
Speaking at the plenary session debating a vote of confidence, Theodorakis said, “The vote of confidence rewards the government for what it has done to now and gives it carte blanche for what it will still do.” He added that “a vote of confidence to the government equals a vote for the Prespes Agreement, not the reverse; a vote for the Prespes Agreement does not mean a vote of confidence for the government.”
He also called on parties to agree they will not allow deputies leaving the party under which they gained a seat in parliament to switch to other parliamentary groups.
The outlook for a vote on the Prespes deal between Greece and FYROM, which is expected in the coming days, was unclear.
Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said the administration’s aim was to secure 151 votes, though he added that technically this is not necessary.
Authorities are bracing for a rally on Sunday against the Prespes agreement in Athens as protests last year drew large crowds.
There are concerns about possible violence as tensions have peaked ahead of the Prespes deal vote. Police in northern Greece arrested four people, two in Grevena and two in Kozani, over the past two days for sticking up “wanted” posters of politicians who have expressed support for the agreement. Another six people were detained in Serres after being found with such posters in their possession.
The arrests follow reports of politicians receiving threats warning them not to support the deal. A 62-year-old former navy officer was arrested earlier this week after allegedly admitting to sending threats to Papacosta.