ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has expelled one of his deputies for threatening to vote against the latest package of austerity measures demanded by international lenders, the government said on Monday.
Greece is finalizing a package of spending cuts worth 11.5 billion euros for 2013 and 2014, which must be ratified by parliament before it can secure its next tranche of aid from the EU and IMF to avoid bankruptcy.
Nikos Stavrogiannis was dismissed from the New Democracy parliamentary group after saying he would vote against the measures, which include a new wave of cuts to wages and pensions, because they were "unfair, harsh and ineffective".
"My conscience does not allow me to vote for measures that devastate the weakest members of society," Stavrogiannis told the Real News newspaper in an interview published on Saturday.
The expulsion of Stavrogiannis, who remains in parliament as an independent, underscores Samaras's hard line on deputies publicly undermining his pledge to push through the cuts to restore Greece's credibility among lenders.
"Obviously we do not see eye to eye with Mr Stavrogiannis," the government's spokesman, Simos Kedikoglou, told Greek television on Monday, confirming the expulsion.
"The vast majority of us have realised that there is an imperative national duty that we must serve, that we must put the national interest above everything else."
Stavrogiannis's dismissal reduces the three-party coalition's backing to 177 seats in the 300-member parliament, still comfortably above the 151-seat majority needed for the measures to pass.
Stavrogiannis is the first New Democracy lawmaker to be kicked out for threatening to vote against the package. In July, Samaras expelled Deputy Labour Minister Nikos Nikolopoulos after he resigned his post complaining that the government was not being forceful enough in negotiations with its lenders.
(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Kevin Liffey)