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Confidence vote debate opens in Greek parliament

world Updated: Nov 04, 2011 23:30 IST
Agence France-Presse & NYT
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A debate on a confidence motion that could spark the fall of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and fresh eurozone turmoil opened in parliament on Friday.

Some 70 deputies from all parties have lined up to address the chamber before a scheduled speech by Papandreou at around 2130 GMT, some 30 minutes before the vote is set to begin, a parliament source said.

They include several ruling Pasok party deputies who were prevented from addressing a rowdy parliamentary group meeting on Thursday that was cut short.

Papandreou, whose shock call for a referendum on a badly-needed EU debt deal earned him a humiliating dressing-down from European officials two days ago, looks uncertain to survive much longer, with fresh calls for his resignation.

The result of the confidence vote is impossible to call. In theory, Papandreou’s socialist Pasok enjoys a majority of two in the 300-seat parliament, but a handful of MPs have threatened to defy him, demanding that he step down in favour of a unity government to steer Greece out of the crisis.

A day after calling off a highly contentious plan for a referendum on Greece’s latest debt deal that had jolted markets and shaken Europe, Papandreou was under intense pressure from his own Socialist party and the center-right opposition to step aside if his government survived the confidence vote, to pave the way for a unity government or early elections.

The political instability comes at a crucial time. The Greek parliament must still approve the new debt deal with Europe, hammered out in Brussels on Oct 26. If not, it might jeopardise not receive the next installment of foreign aid, money it needs to meet basic expenses and prevent a default whose worst-case outcome would have banks beginning to topple throughout Europe and other sovereign governments.