Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' leftist Syriza party has 145 deputies and enough independent deputies have pledged their support to secure approval of the Macedonia name change deal.
AFP Photo/ARIS MESSINIS
Greek MPs to vote on Macedonia deal amid political turmoil
Katerina Nikolopoulou (Agence France-Presse) - January 22, 2019 - 1:08am

Athens - The Greek parliament is expected to vote Thursday on a deal to change Macedonia's name to the Republic of North Macedonia amid deep social division and a crisis in centrist political parties.

Lawmakers will debate the draft name-change deal between Greece and Macedonia on Wednesday, Athens News Agency said on yesterday.

Macedonia's parliament backed a constitutional revision to change the country's name 10 days ago. But for the deal to go through, the change must also be approved by Greek members of parliament.

Macedonia is a former Yugoslav republic, but for most Greeks it is the name of their history-rich northern province made famous by Alexander the Great's conquests.

On Sunday clashes between police and masked protesters left several injured in the capital as tens of thousands demonstrated against the name change deal.

According to the government, "the incidents were provoked by extremists, members of the Golden Dawn, who attempted to enter parliament".

Seven people who were arrested on Sunday have been charged, including two Turkish men and one German woman.

Seventeen civilians and 25 policemen were injured, the Ministry of Health said on yesterday.

A wide range of Greek political parties, from the far-right Golden Dawn to the Socialists, oppose the accord to rename Macedonia.

But it could nonetheless be approved by the required 151 deputies in the 300-seat parliament.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' leftist Syriza party has 145 deputies and enough independent deputies have pledged their support to secure approval.

He urged "progressive forces" to support the name change, in an interview with Avghi, a daily published by Syriza.

Tsipras' ruling coalition fell apart over the deal a week ago, but he then narrowly won a vote of confidence, setting the stage for the name-change vote in parliament.

The shock waves threaten to change the centrist political scene in Greece.

On yesterday, the centrist pro-EU To Potami party lost its status as a parliamentary group after the resignation of deputy Giorgos Amyras, who opposes the agreement.

"I cannot continue to be a member of Potami parliamentary group since I have a different opinion on a major national issue," said Amyras who became an independent expected to cooperate with New Democracy, the main opposition party.

Later yesterday, another deputy, Grigoris Psarianos also announced he was leaving the party with a Facebook post.

That leaves the party with just three deputies, including leader Stavros Theodorakis who supports the Macedonia deal.

On Sunday, the centre-left socialist alliance 'Movement for Change' (former Pasok), expelled Thanassis Theoharopoulos from the party's parliamentary group after he decided to vote for the name change deal.

GREECE POLITICAL TURMOIL
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