ATHENS – Greek lawmakers on Oct. 8 swing into a debate over a vote of confidence sought by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras for his coalition government, which he seems certain to win.
Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, is eager to have some sign of support for the austerity policies he and his partner the PASOK Socialists imposed on orders of international lenders, which he said has brought the country to the edge of recovery.
With the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) taking a growing lead on the back of its opposition to pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings, Samaras is keen to gain a victory, even if it’s in the Parliament his coalition already controls.
New Democracy has 126 seats and PASOK has 28 in the 300-member body for a total of 154, but nine lawmakers from the ultra-far right Golden Dawn party are in jail pending trial on charges of running a criminal gang, which means the government needs only 146 votes to prevail.
Samaras called the confidence vote in an effort to quash mounting speculation that he would be forced to call snap elections because he does not have enough Parliamentary support to push through a nominee for Presidential elections next year. That requires 180 votes and failure to elect someone to the symbolic post would force early elections, which SYRIZA wants.
Samaras also wants to a united front as his government negotiates an early exit from bailout deals with the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which demanded the austerity measures that created record unemployment and deep poverty while decimating support for the ruling parties.
Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos, the PASOK leader who was elevated after backing working firings, warned political uncertainty was undermining the Greek economy as it begins to emerge from its worst economic slump in decades.
“Five years of efforts, five years of hard sacrifices, could be destroyed in five days,” Venizelos said in a speech on Oct. 7, referring to the February Presidential vote. “Five days are enough to take us back to 2009: budget deficits, no future, the collapse of competitiveness.”
He added that the government had sought a confidence vote to “mainly present our completed plan for a final bailout exit, a completed plan for the country to turn a page.”
The debate is set to continue through Oct. 10 with a vote at midnight although the outcome, barring defections of New Democracy and PASOK lawmakers, is already known. Samaras hopes to get more than his own government lawmakers to support him and get to the 180-vote plateau.
“Investors do not see any political solution soon. The government is expected to win the confidence vote but this will mean things will be pushed back for another five months,” Takis Zamanis, a trader at Beta Securities, told Reuters.
A prosecutor on Oct. 8 rejected a request by sixof jailed Golden Dawn MPs to attend the debate and vote. The request was made by party chief Nikos Michaloliakos, as well as Christos Papas, party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, Yiannis Lagos, Giorgos Germenis, and Nikos Kouzilos who remain in custody pending trial of belonging to a criminal organization.