Gov­ern­ment clinches vi­tal vote

Par­lia­ment ap­proves aus­ter­ity plan, with one So­cial­ist and one con­ser­va­tive dis­sent­ing, as new bal­lot looms

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou won Par­lia­ment’s sup­port for a tough aus­ter­ity pack­age de­signed to stave off de­fault yes­ter­day, se­cur­ing 155 votes from Greece’s 300-seat House as all but one of his So­cial­ist MPs, and a New Democ­racy de­fec­tor, backed the gov­ern­ment’s midterm eco­nomic pro­gram.

The gov­ern­ment won the vote with 155 votes for, 138 against, five blank bal­lots and two ab­sences.

The ap­proval cleared the way for the re­lease of a much-needed tranche of emer­gency fund­ing from Greece’s cred­i­tors but a sec­ond vote sched­uled for to­day – on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the mea­sures – will de­ter­mine whether or not the 12-bil­lion-euro in­stall­ment will be dis­bursed and a new res­cue pack­age elab­o­rated.

But it was not all good news for the gov­ern­ment. There were losses for the rul­ing So­cial­ists as Pana­gi­o­tis Kourou­b­lis, one of a hand­ful of skep­tics, voted against the pro­gram and was ousted from the party. Rul­ing PASOK’s ma­jor­ity has now been shaved to four.

There were losses for the main op­po­si­tion New Democ­racy too. Elsa Pa­padim­itriou voted for the mea­sures, break­ing ranks with her party and declar­ing her­self an in­de­pen­dent. Pa­padim­itriou said she hoped the gov­ern­ment would not dis­ap­point her, call­ing her vote “the most dif­fi­cult but valu­able de­ci­sion of my po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.” “There is only one act of pa­tri­o­tism: con­sen­sus and co­op­er­a­tion,” she said. “Fis­cal sui­cide is no al­ter­na­tive.”

The vote was con­ducted by roll call af­ter sev­eral hours of tense de­bate in Par­lia­ment in­volv­ing im­pas­sioned speeches by deputies from all par­ties.

Ear­lier Pa­pan­dreou had said ap- prov­ing the aus­ter­ity mea­sures was “the only way to win enough time to push through much-needed re­forms,” adding that the chief goal was to “to avert to­tal eco­nomic col­lapse.”

“There are only two choices – the dif­fi­cult road of change and the easy road of de­ser­tion, we have cho­sen the dif­fi­cult road,” he said, adding, “The op­po­si­tion can say what­ever it wants, it will not stop us from car­ry­ing out our his­toric duty.”

ND leader An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras, for his part, said that im­pos­ing more aus­ter­ity mea­sures on Greece would guar­an­tee the coun­try’s bank­ruptcy. “At stake is not whether we will col­lapse now but whether we will take a step closer to col­lapse,” he said.

Ahead of the vote, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Evan­ge­los Venize­los ap­pealed to op­po­si­tion MPs to join the gov­ern- ment for a de­bate on the im­ple­men­ta­tion on the mea­sures. “We have taken a big step,” Venize­los told the Athens News Agency. “To­mor­row we will take the sec­ond so that I can go on Sun­day to see my Eurogroup part­ners with real proof of the coun­try’s cred­i­bil­ity,” he said.

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