Greece’s coalition government has won a confidence vote it called for in a bid to build support among its backbenchers and ease fears of political instability in advance of a crucial presidential vote early next year.
All 155 legislators in the conservative-socialist coalition backed early Saturday’s motion, while 131 opposition legislators in the 300-seat parliament rejected it and two said they were voting neither way.
Antonis Samaras, Greece’s conservative prime minister, sought confirmation of his economic reform policies halfway through his four-year term amid opposition calls for snap elections, insisting that the prospect of renewed political risk could scare international markets.
Greece has been through six years of trauma following a rescue from near bankruptcy and drastic economic restructuring.
“Early elections would be a disaster and would cancel all the effort that’s been made” to revive Greece’s finances, he said during the debate.
After the vote, Samaras insisted that the next parliamentary election would be held when the government’s mandate expires in 2016.
However, the coalition will still need opposition support – so far unforthcoming – to avoid a stalemate and snap election in February when parliament chooses the country’s new president, with any candidate requiring a minimum 180 votes to be elected.
During the three-day debate, even independent legislators strongly criticised Samaras’ government, and the leader of a small centre-left party that took part in the coalition for nearly a year argued on Friday that there was a “vital need” for the government to change.
The main opposition, the left-wing Syriza party, is leading opinion polls by promising to renegotiate the tough terms of Greece’s 240bn euro ($302bn) international bailouts, which have kept the country afloat since it lost market confidence in 2010 and nearly went bankrupt.
In exchange for the emergency loans from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund, Greece imposed tough income cuts and repeatedly increased taxes, in an austerity drive that worsened a deep recession and led to about a million job losses.
Greece has just benefited from a highly successful tourism season.
The economy is set to return to growth this year, albeit at only 0.6 percent of GDP.
Christos Staikouras, the deputy finance minister, said on Monday that Greece should climb strongly away next year from the recession which cut a quarter of its economy, turning in growth of 2.9 percent.
Alexis Tsipras, Syriza’s leader, insisted in parliament on Friday on the need for a sweeping solution to the country’s debt problems.
“We are asking for most of the debt to be written off,” he said, adding that repayment of the remaining part should be linked with the pace of Greece’s expected future economic growth.
Tsipras argued that the prospect of the presidential vote forcing early elections left Samaras with little legitimacy to carry out his planned debt relief negotiations with bailout creditors, which will aim to extend debt maturities and interest rates.
“Any decision or agreement will not have our consensus, will not be accepted by us and will not bind Syriza,” he said.
“Your [parliamentary] backing is far from the 180 lawmakers you need for the presidential election.”
“All opposition parties have said they will not vote for the new president … What will you do? Keep the entire country fettered by talk of early elections?”
Syriza has promised to raise incomes and reduce taxation, in what Samaras dismissed as “not an economic programme … but a wedding list.
Source: Al Jazeera