Europe

New Greek PM Lucas Papademos wins confidence vote

  • 16 November 2011
  • From the section Europe
Media captionThe BBC's Mark Lowen says there is still an "extremely difficult path ahead"

Greece's new interim PM, Lucas Papademos, has won a confidence vote in parliament.

The governing coalition had a huge majority - 255 MPs voted in favour, and 38 against.

The government must approve a new bailout package and commit to reforms in order to secure the next instalment of an international loan.

The BBC's Mark Lowen in Athens says the vote gives Mr Papademos the authority to govern.

But our correspondent says that the fledgling government faces huge challenges ahead in implementing deeply unpopular austerity measures.

Before the vote, the leaders of two of the three parties in the governing coalition opposed a plan to commit to the latest bailout package in writing, putting them at odds with the new Prime Minister.

They are the leaders of the conservative New Democracy party, Antonis Samaras, and the leader of Greece's Far Right Laos party, George Karatzaferis.

But both leaders backed the unity government in the vote.

'Government of substance'

Mr Papademos has said his priority is ratifying the international 130bn euro ($177bn; £111bn) bailout package agreed at an EU summit last month.

It imposes austerity measures that have triggered widespread protest in Greece.

The crisis led to the resignation last week of the then-Prime Minister George Papandreou.

Mr Papademos, an unelected former banker, leads an interim cabinet of technocrats backed by the leading parties - including Mr Papandreou's Socialists (Pasok) and the rival centre-right New Democracy.

Speaking before Wednesday's vote, Mr Papademos appealed for unity and said Greece needed to take bolder steps to tackle the crisis.

"Dealing with Greece's problems will be more difficult if Greece is not a member of the eurozone," he told parliament.

He reiterated an EU demand that all coalition party leaders sign a document committing themselves to the bailout terms.

But before the vote, the leader of New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, has repeated that he will not heed the demand to sign the pledge to honour the latest bailout package, which will involve more austerity measures.

Mr Samaras faces opposition to the austerity measures from his own MPs.

The leader of the far right Laos party, George Karatzaferis, also rejected signing the bailout pledge.

But in an interview with Reuters news agency, he declared his support for Mr Papademos.

"I believe Papademos is best suited to cure all the ills of the Greek economy. In short, I trust him." he said in his first interview to foreign media since the formation of the new Greek cabinet.

"If we all keep interfering, it won't be a government of substance but a government for show," he added.

Mr Karatzaferis was a fervent backer of Mr Papademos for prime minister and stormed out of the presidential palace in anger last week when his candidacy was in doubt.

"What is important is to save the country," Mr Karatzaferis said. "We are on the brink of a great catastrophe."

Image caption The austerity measures are deeply unpopular with the Greek public

Power cut

On Wednesday, before the vote in parliament, utility workers in Greece cut the electricity supply to the health ministry building in Athens.

They say the government has fallen 141m euros ($191m) behind on its bills to the public electricity company.

The workers are also protesting at being asked to collect an unpopular new property tax through household bills - people who don't pay the tax face the prospect of having their power supply cut.

Our correspondent says it's a sign of the social unrest that is still bubbling in Greece - and the resistance the new government is likely to face in the months ahead as it pushes through cost-cutting measures to save it from bankruptcy.

The unity government is intended to run the country until elections in February.

Greece must approve the latest bailout and implement policies linked to it, to secure a 8bn-euro ($11bn; £6.8bn) instalment from the first bailout.

Without the cash, Athens may have to default on its massive public debt.

The new package includes provisions for private holders of Greek bonds to write off 50% of their debt holdings.

Mr Papademos was named as interim prime minister last Thursday after days of turmoil sparked by Mr Papandreou's plan for a referendum on the bailout. That idea was later dropped.