Greece’s government has survived a no-confidence vote in parliament. The main opposition party had introduced the motion due to its disapproval of the government’s closure of public broadcaster ERT.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' coalition government survived the no-confidence vote by a narrow margin, with 153 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament voting down the motion. This was just two fewer than the number of seats that the conservative government controlled. One Socialist lawmaker, who voted in favour of the motion, was expelled from the coalition as a result. This reduced the majority the coaltion controls from five to four seats.
The main opposition SYRIZA party had introduced the no-confidence motion on Thursday after riot police had moved to expel the remaining former ERT workers out of the country's headquarters in the north of Athens. Some former ERT staffers had occupied the building for the past five months, ever since the government announced on June 11 that it was shutting down the public broadcaster with immediate effect. ERT's signal was cut in a matter of hours after that.
The closure, in which more than 2,600 staff members were made jobless, was part of the government's efforts to cut its massive deficit, as demanded by the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank in return for the financial bailouts that have kept Athens from becoming insolvent.
The parliamentary vote came as representatives of the IMF, the EU and the ECB, known collectively as the “troika,” were in the Greek capital for their latest inspection of Athens' progress towards meeting its targets. The payment of each tranche of the 240-billion euros ($320 billion) pledged to Greece as part of the bailouts is dependent upon the out come of such inspections.
As lawmakers debated the motion in parliament, a few thousand anti-austerity protesters demonstrated outside.
SYRIZA leader Alexos Tsipras used the debate to accuse the government of driving ordinary Greeks to despair with the austerity measures.
"Thousands of people are looking through garbage for food," Tsipras said.
The prime minister responded by accusing the opposition leader of trying to use the issue for political gain.
"You chose the wrong moment to play parliamentary theatrics, in a time when the government is in crucial negotiations with the troika," Samaras (pictured above) said.
The government is coming under increasing pressure to cut 15,000 public sector jobs by 2015. The ERT layoffs helped the government meet a short-term target of 2,000 job cuts by the end of June. The government has since opened a new public broadcaster, EDT, which operates with a fraction of the number of staff once employed by ERT.
pfd/av (dpa, Reuters, AP)