The Telegraph
Thursday , June 23 , 2011
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Greek PM survives key vote

Athens, June 22: Prime Minister George Papandreou of Greece won a crucial vote of confidence early today, with all 155 lawmakers of the Socialist Party expressing their support for his beleaguered government, above the absolute majority of 151 votes required by Greece’s 300-seat parliament.

The vote was conducted by roll call after several hours of fiery debate yesterday that resulted in several Opposition lawmakers briefly walking out of parliament in protest at comments by the deputy Prime Minister, Theodoros Pangalos, an outspoken Socialist stalwart.

In a sign that Papandreou had managed to rally Socialist lawmakers after a week of political turmoil, the ruling-party lawmakers voted yes, with 143 from the Opposition voting against and two abstentions.

The vote averts early elections and a stalled government, which many had feared could throw Greece into default on its loans and the rest of the euro zone into a financial panic rivalling the one that followed the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in 2008.

Papandreou will face an even bigger challenge when parliament votes next week on a slate of measures that includes tax hikes, wage cuts and state privatisation. The steps were required by the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF before the release of the next segment of financial aid.

Greece’s new finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, pledged that parliament would pass the unpopular austerity measures next week. “The midterm programme is a plan for reforming our nation and must be implemented,” the minister said in a reference to the new package of measures.

Before the vote, Papandreou called on parliament and the people to show responsibility and seize “a critical opportunity to save the country from default”.

He appealed as he had last week to the main conservative Opposition party, New Democracy, for consensus on the austerity measures, which will be voted on in parliament next Tuesday. But he seemed to know his entreaties were falling mostly on deaf ears, and he could not resist a dig at the Opposition, saying: “Our government had to struggle to clean up after your mistakes.”

He defended the country’s foreign creditors, who have become a lightning rod for popular fury, saying: “They are giving us a helping hand in difficult times.”

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