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Greek MPs to vote on Macedonia deal amid political turmoil

ATHENS, Greece – The Greek parliament is expected to vote Thursday, January 24, 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, January 23, and Thursday before the vote, Athens News Agency said Monday, January 21.

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 MPs.

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, January 20, clashes between police and masked protesters left several injured in Athens as tens of thousands demonstrated against the name change.

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

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

Seventeen civilians and 25 policemen were injured, the health ministry said on Monday.

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 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' leftist Syriza party has 145 MPs and enough independent members 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 confidence vote, setting the stage for the name-change vote in parliament.

The issue threatens to change the centrist political scene in Greece.

On Monday, the centrist pro-EU To Potami party lost its status as a parliamentary group after the resignation of MP 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 MP expected to cooperate with New Democracy, the main opposition party.

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

That leaves the party with just 3 MPs, including leader Stavros Theodorakis who supports the Macedonia deal.

On Sunday, the center-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. – Rappler.com