Greece PM likely to call con­fi­dence vote af­ter party re­volt

The Pak Banker - - COMPANIES/BOSS -

The Greek gov­ern­ment ap­pears likely to call a con­fi­dence vote fol­low­ing a re­bel­lion among law­mak­ers from the rul­ing Syriza party over the coun­try's new bailout deal, se­nior min­is­ters said on Mon­day. Energy Min­is­ter Panos Sk­ourletis de­scribed such a par­lia­men­tary vote as "self-ev­i­dent" fol­low­ing Fri­day's re­bel­lion when al­most a third of Syriza deputies ab­stained or voted against the agree­ment.

With Syriza's left wing show­ing lit­tle sign of re­turn­ing to the party fold, Sk­ourletis also raised the pos­si­bil­ity of early elec­tions should Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras lose a con­fi­dence mo­tion. Tsipras had to rely on op­po­si­tion sup­port to get the bailout deal through par­lia­ment, and another min­is­ter ar­gued that elec­tions would be a way of achiev­ing po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity.

Greece's po­lit­i­cal tur­moil has raised un­cer­tainty over how the gov­ern­ment will im­ple­ment the bailout deal, which de­mands pro­found eco­nomic re­form and tough aus­ter­ity poli­cies, with­out a work­able ma­jor­ity.

The gov­ern­ment has said its pri­or­ity is to se­cure a start to fund­ing from in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors un­der the bailout pro­gramme, Greece's third in five years, so that Athens can make a 3.2 bil­lion euro debt re­pay­ment to the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank on Thurs­day.

How­ever, asked on Skai tele­vi­sion about the pos­si­bil­ity of a par­lia­men­tary con­fi­dence vote af­ter this, Sk­ourletis said: "I con­sider it self-ev­i­dent af­ter the deep wound in Syriza's par­lia­men­tary group for there to be such a move." Tsipras was elected only in Jan­uary, but since then has had to ditch his prom­ises to re­verse the bud­get cuts and tax in­creases that pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments im­posed to sat­isfy Greece's euro zone and IMF cred­i­tors.

Health Min­is­ter Pana­gi­o­tis Kourou­b­lis sug­gested that only another elec­tion could calm the cli­mate at a time of eco­nomic cri­sis and show that the peo­ple would ac­cept the oner­ous bailout pro­gramme. "Elec­tions are not the best choice ... but for the econ­omy to pick up there must be po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity," he told Skai TV. "To im­ple­ment such a se­ri­ous pro­gramme with painful mea­sures, you can­not do that with­out a pop­u­lar man­date."

Tsipras fired his last energy min­is­ter Pana­gi­o­tis Lafaza­nis for join­ing a pre­vi­ous re­bel­lion. Lafaza­nis now leads Syriza mem­bers who op­pose the con­di­tions that Tsipras had to ac­cept in re­turn for the 86 bil­lion eu­ros ($95 bil­lion) in loans. Last week Lafaza­nis took a step to­wards break­ing away from Syriza, a coali­tion of the rad­i­cal left, by call­ing for a new anti-bailout move­ment. The chances that the hard left wing will re­lent and rally be­hind Tsipras in a con­fi­dence vote look slim.

"The bailout can­not be a uni­fy­ing ba­sis for Syriza," Stathis Le­out­sakos, a law­maker who joined the re­bel­lion told Skai TV. "The bailout can­not be the pro­gramme of Syriza, it falls out­side its val­ues, these are in­com­pat­i­ble no­tions."

How­ever, a group of Syriza law­mak­ers called for the party to hold to­gether. "We recog­nise that unity has been dealt a se­ri­ous blow, but we refuse to ac­cept a split as a pre-or­dained fact," the 17 sig­na­to­ries said in a state­ment on the party's web­site.

Alekos Flabouraris, min­is­ter of state and close ad­viser to Tsipras, said he wanted all 162 law­mak­ers of the rul­ing coali­tion to sup­port a con­fi­dence vote. "It would be un­fair for the gov­ern­ment to be brought down by its own deputies," he said.

On Sun­day, Greece's so­cial­ist PA­SOK party joined the main con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion in say­ing it would not back Tsipras in any con­fi­dence vote. PA­SOK made clear that while it had backed the gov­ern­ment over the bailout for the sake of sav­ing Greece from fi­nan­cial ruin, that sup­port would not con­tinue.

Once the dom­i­nant force on the Greek left, PA­SOK now has just 13 mem­bers in the 300 seat par­lia­ment but Tsipras will need all the sup­port he can get. Cru­cially, it did not say whether it would vote against the gov­ern­ment, or merely ab­stain. On Fri­day, sup­port for the gov­ern­ment from within its own coali­tion par­ties fell be­low 120 votes, the min­i­mum needed to sur­vive a con­fi­dence vote if some oth­ers ab­stain.

The con­ser­va­tive New Democ­racy party, which has 76 seats, has also said it would not back the gov­ern­ment.

Tsipras has presided over the clo­sure of Greek banks for three weeks and se­vere lim­its on with­drawals from ac­counts re­main, even though the fi­nan­cial sys­tem only nar­rowly avoided col­lapse when the bailout was agreed.

How­ever, Tsipras is un­tainted by the cor­rup­tion scan­dals that have touched Greece's older par­ties and re­mains pop­u­lar, although no opin­ion polls have been pub­lished since the cap­i­tal con­trols were im­posed at the end of June. Tsipras's stand­ing has raised doubts about how much the op­po­si­tion par­ties may want to force new elec­tions. Sk­ourletis said that if Syriza opts for snap polls, the party would aim for an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity. "I think such a goal is at­tain­able," he said, play­ing down the pos­si­bil­ity of post-elec­tion col­lab­o­ra­tion with the likes of New Democ­racy, PA­SOK or Po­tami, a proEu­ro­pean cen­trist party.

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