Greek parliament gears up for midnight confidence vote

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek lawmakers geared up Wednesday night for a confidence vote in the left-wing government, which lost its parliamentary majority after its coalition partner walked out to protest a deal normalizing relations with neighboring Macedonia.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to narrowly survive the ballot that is due around midnight, backed by his own Syriza party, independent lawmakers and dissenting deputies from his former coalition partner.

Tsipras has strongly defended his efforts to end a 27-year dispute with Macedonia over that country’s name, which Greece says implies claims on its own province of Macedonia and on Greek cultural heritage.

Under the agreement, which Macedonia has already ratified, the country will be renamed North Macedonia, and Greece will lift objections to its joining NATO and the European Union.

Tsipras has said he will seek to get the Greek parliament to ratify the Macedonia name change deal just days after the confidence vote. Government officials are optimistic that they can get the Macedonia agreement approved even though most opposition parties reject it.

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Hardliners in both countries claim it concedes too much to the other side.

In Greece, sentiment is particularly high in the northern province of Macedonia where opponents say the deal will sign away their regional identity and heritage. In recent days, posters have been stuck up in northern cities with pictures of local lawmakers who back the deal, above the caption: “Will you betray our Macedonia?”

Four people were arrested Wednesday over the posters in the northern towns of Grevena and Kozani and charged with breaching advertising laws and traffic codes.

Opponents of the name change deal are planning a protest rally in Athens on Sunday.

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