Greece’s coalition government breezed through a largely symbolic confidence vote late Sunday, winning the tough mandate of tackling a two-year-old crisis and keeping the country safely in the eurozone, AFP reports.
After three days of tense parliamentary debate, 179 lawmakers out of the chamber’s 300 voted in favour of a centrist coalition led by conservative Prime Minster Antonis Samaras that has promised to ease austerity measures while still meeting demands of EU-IMF creditors.
The outcome of the vote was never really in doubt and aligned exactly with the 179 seats held by the Samaras-led coalition that unites his conservative New Democracy party with the socialist PASOK and the much smaller Democratic Left.
“You have followed the decisions of a three-party government that wants to proceed with reforms and change the country needs,” Samaras told deputies minutes before the vote. “We must stay in the euro according to the verdict of the Greek people.”
The Samaras cabinet must immediately tackle the mammoth task of turning crisis-wracked Greece around while keeping the trust of EU-IMF creditors who hold the power to keep the country’s finances afloat.
The government said its first goal, along with carrying through a raft of reforms and privatisations, will be to secure an extension to the tight budget deadlines set out in Greece’s second 130-billion-euro bailout plan.
But Greece’s new finance minister warned lawmakers Sunday that winning any kind of reprieve from lenders will not be easy as EU and IMF officials have shown stiff resistance to any talk of renegotiation, especially one that comes with a price tag.
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said, “We will propose an extension of the deadline beyond 2014, but the difficulty is that it requires additional financing and therefore a consensus (in Europe). Greece has received until now the most aid ever given a country.”
Earlier Sunday Stournaras met for the second time with an auditing team from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, which has been inspecting Greece’s finances all week.
Their conclusions, expected later this month, will help lenders decide whether to proceed with Greece’s current loan programme.
On Monday Stournaras heads to Brussels to attend a meeting of Eurogroup ministers which will be “a first exchange of views on what the intentions of the Greek government are,” according to an EU official.