Greek PM survives vote of confidence

Papandreou gains parliamentary support for his government, paving the way for a a new round of austerity measures.

    Al Jazeera's Tim Friend reports from Athens where protesters continued their campaign long into the night

    Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and his government have survived a key vote of confidence.

    Papandreou won the party-line vote by 155 votes to 143, with two abstentions. The parliamentary vote was a hurdle Papandreou had to clear to gain support for a new round of austerity measures needed to secure a $17bn bailout.

    He nows faces two more crucial tests: a parliamentary vote to approve $40bn worth of tax increases and job cuts; and another vote days later to pass the legislation necessary to enact the cuts.

    "It wasn't unexpected that he would succeed tonight, but this is only the beginning, frankly, here," said Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan, reporting from central Athens.

    Protesters had massed in Syntagma Square outside the parliament building ahead of the vote on Tuesday night.

    The crowd remained largely peaceful, though dozens shined green laser pens into television cameras, windows of the parliament building and the faces of riot police standing guard.

    After the vote, as deputies filed out of the building, police dispersed the crowd with a volley of tear gas.

    "Anger is simmering, and things are certainly coming to a head as we get closer and closer to what the Greeks see as the crippling of their economy," Brennan said.

    "The Greek people blame the politicians for getting them into this position in the first place. Let's not forget it wasn't a bank collapse that created the Greek deficit, this was largely a problem of mismanagement."

    'Catastrophic' bankruptcy

    Facing public protests and dissent in his Socialist party, Papandreou reshuffled his cabinet last week and called the confidence vote in an effort to push his reforms through the legislature this month.

    He also urged Greeks to support the deeply unpopular tax hikes, spending cuts and privatisation plans in order to avoid a "catastrophic" bankruptcy.

    But for 28 consecutive days, demonstrators have been camping out on the central square in the capital and have held nightly rallies in front of the parliament building, protesting against the planned austerity measures.

    "I am not expecting anything from this government, nor are the Greek people, because they have lied to the people too many times," protester Kostas Naupliotis said at the rally outside parliament as the ruling and opposition parties deputies were holding debates inside ahead of the vote.

    Papandreou's Socialist party holds a five-seat majority in the 300-member legislature.

    But his popularity has been hammered by the latest austerity measures, with an opinion poll published Tuesday giving the Socialists a 20.1 per cent approval rating.

    Rival conservatives faired marginally better, at 21 per cent, in the GPO survey for the Mega television channel.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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