Parliament Grants Vote of Confidence to Greek Government

greek-parliament1The three-day parliamentary debate ended tonight with the majority of MPs voting in favor of the Greek coalition government.

155 MPs voted “yes,” 131 voted “no” and 2 voted “present.”

As the parliamentary debate over the vote of confidence began, internal divisions within the New Democracy (ND) and PASOK parties deepened, threatening government unity.

Perhaps more significant, however, is the displeasure displayed by numerous ND MPs at Greece ‘s Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ controversial decision to appoint Health Minister Makis Voridis as his representative in parliament. Such concerns were expressed by Dora Bakoyiannis, who is known to favor a centrist approach. She recently stated that she felt the Prime Minister should be present at the debate, in a thinly veiled criticism of the prominent role given to Voridis. There was also reportedly friction within ND’s parliamentary group, with some MPs criticizing Voridis’ use of language that was reminiscent of the 1950s. Furthermore, several ND MPs were noticeably absent from his speech while others chose not to applaud him.

Yesterday, it was Voridis who started the debate, making the case that Samaras’ government was on track to end the Memorandum a year and a half ahead of schedule.

Voridis made no effort to tone down his right-wing rhetoric, launching an attack towards SYRIZA in particular that would make many centrists squirm. He warned about the threat of “communism” and accused the opposition party of “hate speech” that had stoked political tensions and therefore contributed to the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas by Golden Dawn (GD) supporter. His argument fell in line with previous arguments made by ND in favor of the theory of the two extremes that effectively sought to equate the behavior of leftist groups such as SYRIZA with that of the militant neo-fascists.

The accusation provoked an angry response from SYRIZA who claimed that ND was in the pocket of influential business figures. The opposition party also pointed at ND’s own ties with GD, particularly through the former government general secretary Takis Baltakos.

During his speech tonight, at the closing of the three-day debate, Samaras wanted to pass the message to the Greek society that the country is entering a new phase of growth and stability, and that injustices of the past in the field of economic policy will be restored.

The Prime Minister stressed that Greece does not need an additional bailout program and that it will be perfectly capable of handling its finances without external help.

He commented that the negotiation with the country’s creditors is heading towards a positive completion and the sacrifices of the Greek people will finally bear fruit. He also pointed out that no new fiscal measures will be imposed on Greek citizens.

Samaras launched a fierce attack towards SYRIZA and its leader Alexis Tsipras, accusing them of frightening society.

Tsipras, on his part, accused Samaras of lying to the Greek people over the country’s Memorandum exit.

The leftist opposition leader maintained his position that the Prime Minister has consented to the country’s creditors’ efforts to keep Greece bound to policies dictated by the Memorandum.

Speaking in parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos said the government aimed to ditch the bailout early by completing EU-wide bank stress tests, winning debt relief and securing the support of EU partners for the exit. He stressed the need for upgrades from ratings agencies on Greek debt.
Tsipras mocked the government’s plans to end the bailout after vigorously defending it over the years. “Weren’t you the ones who said that even if the (EU/IMF) troika hadn’t brought the bailout, we would have had to create one for ourselves? That the bailout is pulling us out of the crisis? How come you’ve become anti-bailout?,” Tsipras said.

Under Greek law, parliament must be dissolved and elections called if it cannot elect a president.
Opinion polls say Syriza would almost certainly win an early ballot, and its leader Alexis Tsipras repeated an impassioned call for new elections. “Tonight, when the lights in this room go out, we will all see that this confidence is far from the 180 deputies needed for a president to be elected,” Tsipras said in parliament, turning down an invitation to back the coalition.
In a warning to Samaras’s government that is set to begin crucial talks on debt relief, reforms and funding, Tsipras said Syriza would not respect prior decisions when it comes to power. “Don’t make crucial moves, don’t proceed with crucial negotiations or decisions which will bind future governments without the consent of the party that ranks first,” he said. “I’m saying this again, not only to you but so that it’s also heard in Brussels, Berlin and Washington: decisions or agreements made without our consent will not be accepted, they won’t be binding for Syriza.”