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Protesters stand in front of the parliament in Athens Friday as law makers prepare for a confidence vote on the government of Prime Minister George Papandreou. (YANNIS BEHRAKIS/REUTERS)
Protesters stand in front of the parliament in Athens Friday as law makers prepare for a confidence vote on the government of Prime Minister George Papandreou. (YANNIS BEHRAKIS/REUTERS)

Papandreou wins confidence vote Add to ...

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou won a parliamentary confidence vote on Saturday, avoiding snap elections which would have torpedoed Greece’s bailout deal and inflamed the euro zone’s economic crisis.

Mr. Papandreou’s socialist government won with all his party lawmakers in the 300-member parliament supporting the government, but his term as Prime Minister appeared close to an end.

Earlier, Mr. Papandreou called for a new coalition government to approve the €130-billion ($179-billion U.S.) bailout deal which is vital for saving the country from bankruptcy and tackling the euro zone’s economic crisis, and signalled he was ready to stand down.

Mr. Papandreou told parliament before the vote that he would go to the Greek president on Saturday to discuss formation of a broader-based government that would secure the euro zone bailout, Greece’s last financial lifeline, adding that he was willing to discuss who would head a new administration.

“The last thing I care about is my post. I don’t care even if I am not re-elected. The time has come to make a new effort... I never thought of politics as a profession,” he said before a parliamentary vote of confidence in his government.

Earlier, sources said Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos had won the backing of leaders of some smaller parties to support a new coalition that he would head.

The new government would force the euro zone bailout deal through parliament before calling early elections in a few months, sources close to the deal told Reuters.

The leaders of the far-right LAOS party and another centre-right party indicated after Mr. Papandreou’s speech that they would co-operate in a new coalition.

Mr. Venizelos told parliament a new Greek coalition government must approve the bailout deal and would be expected to last until the end of February.

The nature of such a new government would be open to discussion but must be made up of politicians, he said. It should approve the budget and revised fiscal adjustment plan as well as complete talks on private sector participation for the reduction of Greek debt.

However, Greek conservative leader Antonis Samaras rejected Mr. Papandreou’s call for a coalition government on Saturday, demanding immediate elections.

“Mr. Papandreou rejected our proposal. The only solution is elections,” a spokesman for his New Democracy party quoted Mr. Samaras as saying.

Mr. Papandreou provoked uproar at home and abroad on Monday when he announced a referendum on the €130-billion bailout, agreed by euro zone leaders only last week.

Under heavy domestic and international pressure, he backed down on a popular vote which could well have rejected the deal, cutting off Greece’s last financial lifeline and potentially sinking euro zone leaders’ attempts to stop the debt crisis spreading to bigger economies such as Italy and Spain.

The government officially announced earlier on Friday that the referendum would not go ahead.

The conservative New Democracy party had proposed a national unity government with the sole aim of forcing the bailout through parliament before early elections.

Mr. Venizelos, an ambitious and powerful Socialist who is leading talks with the EU, the IMF and banks on the country’s bailout and debt swap deals, had broken ranks with Mr. Papandreou over the referendum and argued it was not what Greece needed.

Greece is due a vital €8-billion aid instalment this month, but exasperated European leaders have warned the country will not receive any more aid until it votes to meet its commitments to the euro zone.

Mr. Venizelos had been kept in the dark by Mr. Papandreou on the plan to announce a referendum, a Greek government official has said.

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