June 25, 2015 / 5:23 PM / 2 years ago

Greek government divided over migrant law but measure passes

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek lawmakers passed a bitterly-contested law on citizenship for the children of migrants on Thursday, in a vote that split the ruling coalition but pointed toward possible alternative alliances for the ruling Syriza party.

The measure, on a highly divisive issue, passed with 172 votes in the 300-seat parliament. All but one of the Independent Greeks, junior coalition partners in Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ government, voted against the bill.

The legislation grants citizenship to migrants’ children who have been born and raised in Greece, a measure long opposed by conservative parties.

The vote was the first split over a full piece of legislation since the unlikely coalition between the radical leftist Syriza party and its nationalist partners, the Independent Greeks, came to power in January.

For Syriza, granting full citizenship rights to children of migrants who grow up in Greece was a campaign promise. It was anathema to the Independent Greeks, a right-wing party that opposes austerity policies imposed by international lenders and which strongly emphasizes issues of national sovereignty.

Many observers had pinpointed the migrant issue as a potential faultline between the coalition partners when their alliance was formed after the January election.

However it showed that on some issues, it is possible for Syriza to form ad-hoc alliances with other parties, including the pro-European To Potami group or the Socialist Pasok party, suggesting the coalition could survive limited differences.

That could be vital if divisions over individual terms of any bailout agreement with international creditors cause the Independent Greeks to vote against their partners, as their 13 votes might be made up by others.

The vexed issue of VAT exemptions for some Greek islands could be one such issue. The Independent Greeks insist that favorable tax rates are vital to the local economies of remote tourist-dependent islands, which they say form a vital part of Greece’s national identity.

Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; editing by Andrew Roche

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