ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has survived a confidence vote, calming a vicious revolt in his Socialist party with an emotional pledge to step aside if necessary and seek a cross-party government to safeguard a new European debt agreement.
Papandreou won the critical parliamentary confidence motion 153-145 early Saturday after a week of drama in Athens that horrified Greece’s European partners, spooked global markets and overshadowed the Group of 20 summit in the French resort of Cannes.
Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who warned that the debt-ridden country still faced “mortal danger,” said the new government would last four months, until the end of February.
But conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras demanded immediate elections. He did not say whether he would join coalition talks, due to be formally launched later Saturday when Papandreou meets the country’s president.
Midway through its four-year term, Papandreou’s government came under threat after his disastrous bid this week to hold a referendum on a major new European debt agreement. The idea was swiftly scrapped Thursday after an angry response from markets and European leaders who said any popular vote in Greece would determine whether the country would keep its cherished euro membership.
They also vowed to withhold a critical €8 billion installment of loans from an existing bailout deal that Greece needs urgently to stave off an imminent and catastrophic default.
Papandreou’s shock referendum gamble, and the hostile international response, horrified many of his own party stalwarts. It prompted an open rebellion with senior socialists saying they would only back the confidence vote if he pledged to seek a cross-party coalition with a mandate to secure the new debt deal and the disbursement next bailout loan installment.
Struggling to face down the revolt, Papandreou insisted his only priority was to save the country. He insisted he was not concerned with retaining the premiership, but warned that elections now would have been “catastrophic,” jeopardizing Greece’s continued bailout funding, the new debt deal and the country’s euro membership.
He sought the vote of confidence “to safeguard a steady course for the country — with no power vacuum, without being dragged to election,” he said.
“We must proceed in an organized way. And regardless of developments, the country must be governed tomorrow without turbulence.”
Several thousands supporters of Greece’s Communist Party protested outside parliament just ahead of Friday’s vote to demand elections, in a rally that ended peacefully.
Government officials said they were not deterred by an initial hostile response by opposition parties to the coalition offer.
“We will keep inviting (Samaras), and re-inviting him, again and again until we have a result,” Agriculture Minister Costas Skandalidis said.View Entire Story
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