Greek government survives confidence vote

Monday 11 November 2013 16.53
The coalition led by Antonis Samaras is currently negotiating with Troika lenders
The coalition led by Antonis Samaras is currently negotiating with Troika lenders

Greece's conservative-led coalition has defeated an opposition-sponsored motion to topple the government.

The vote did however cost the government one politician who was expelled after backing the opposition.             

A total 153 out of the parliament's 300 politicians rejected the opposition's censure motion.   

The confidence vote was put forward by the main opposition Syriza party, which aims to overturn the austerity policies that the Greek government is implementing as a condition of its EU/IMF bailout.         

The debate took place during a crucial inspection visit of representatives of the Troika, who are in Athens to check its progress in meeting bailout targets before they approve the release of up to €5.9bn in lifeline loans.             

"Thousands of people are looking in the rubbish for food," Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras told politicians, asking them to back the censure motion. 

About 3,500 Syriza supporters gathered outside parliament during the debate, holding banners and shouting: "Take your bailout and get out of here."             

Mr Syriza filed the censure motion after riot police stormed the headquarters of former state broadcaster ERT on Thursday.

Riot police were sent in to end a protracted sit-in of journalists who were fired five months ago.             

The dismissals were part of a bailout-imposed plan to get rid of 4,000 state workers by the end of the year.             

"You chose the wrong moment to play parliamentary theatrics, in a time when the government is in crucial negotiations with the Troika," Mr Samaras said in response to Mr Tsipras.             

Mr Samaras's government and the Troika are still at loggerheads over how many additional savings Athens needs to hit its 2014 budget targets.             

Under the terms of its €240bn bailout, Athens must achieve a primary budget surplus, before interest payments, of €2.75bn next year, or 1.5% of gross domestic product (GDP).            

The Troika currently estimates that Greece will fall about €2bn short of that target and is forcing Mr Samaras to come up with new budget measures to fill that fiscal gap.             

But the austerity-weary government has ruled out any fresh wage cuts, pension reductions or tax increases.

It hopes instead that "targeted" cuts, an economic rebound and a crackdown on tax evasion will help it reach its targets.            

"Make no mistake, there will be no new fiscal measures, no age and pension cuts," Evangelos Venizelos, Mr Samaras's junior coalition partner and chief of the Socialist PASOK party, said yesterday.        

Troika heads and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras did not reach agreement on how to close the fiscal gap in a meeting yesterday.

They will resume talks tomorrow.