Greek government seen calling confidence vote

AP News
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Posted: Aug 17, 2015 8:42 AM
Greek government seen calling confidence vote

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is likely to call a confidence vote in his government after the country's third bailout deal with international creditors sparked a rebellion within his party, one of his ministers indicated Monday.

Expectations of a confidence vote, which could lead to early elections, heightened after last Friday's parliamentary vote in favor of the 86 billion euro three-year ($93 billion) bailout passed thanks to opposition support and saw dozens of lawmakers in Tsipras' Syriza party dissent.

Without the bailout, Greece faces defaulting on its debts and eventually being forced out of Europe's joint currency, the euro.

"I consider it self-evident, after the deep wounding of the parliamentary majority and in particular of the parliamentary group of Syriza, for there to be a move that at least approaches the issue," Energy and Environment Minister Panos Skourletis told Skai television when asked about the possibility of the government calling a confidence vote.

Skourletis added that early elections may also be necessary in light of the political instability.

The government has said its priority is currently securing the bailout funding, which it needs by Thursday to meet a large debt repayment to the European Central Bank, and that any further decisions on the political situation will be taken from then on.

In order to secure the bailout deal, Tsipras reneged on the promises that saw his radical left Syriza party win January elections. Syriza's coalition government with the small nationalist Independent Greeks was premised on a pledge to repeal austerity measures tied to Greece's two previous international bailouts.

Instead, after months of floundering negotiations with international creditors, the government accepted demands for steep tax hikes and deep spending cuts.

The about-face has angered an increasing number of Syriza lawmakers, including prominent members such as former ministers of finance Yanis Varoufakis, and energy Panagiotis Lafazanis. Both voted against the government.

Last week Lafazanis — who was replaced as minister in a reshuffle last month after opposing the government in a previous bailout-related vote — and another 12 left-wing politicians announced they were creating a new anti-austerity movement, although Lafazanis stopped short of quitting the party.

If a confidence vote is called, a parliamentary debate would start two days later, with a vote held after a maximum three-day discussion. Tsipras will need the support of a majority of lawmakers present in the 300-member parliament — and not less than 120 — for his government to survive.

Opposition parties have indicated they will not back Tsipras in a confidence vote, so the outcome will depend on Syriza dissenters.

If many vote against, they will bring down the government. However, if they chose not to be present, Tsipras would need fewer votes and could survive.

The turmoil has raised the possibility of general elections being called as soon as next month.

Asked about the possibility, Skourletis said he believed such a move was necessary in order to tackle the political instability. He noted that the bailout meant the situation had now changed compared to when Syriza initially won its popular mandate.

"I would say the elections are necessary," Skourletis said. "Because given the problems in the governing majority, today's situation can be described as anything but stable."

"If we don't see it in the foreseeable future, then instability will be what determines developments," he added.

Elections would be held three to four weeks after being declared.

Despite his U-turn, Tsipras has remained popular and is believed to be well-placed to win a forthcoming election. Although no opinion polls have been published since the end of last week when Greece's third bailout was finalized, previous polls showed his party enjoying a wide lead over opposition parties.