Government wins confidence vote

Prime Minister George Papandreou early Wednesday secured a vote of confidence in his new Cabinet, buoying the ruling Socialists ahead of a vote next Tuesday on a new raft of austerity measures.

All 155 lawmakers of ruling PASOK expressed their support in the roll call, significantly above the absolute majority of 151 votes required by Greece?s 300-seat Parliament. Of the opposition MPs, 143 declared a no-confidence vote and two abstained.

?All Greeks have the duty and the ability to change this country,? Papandreou said in a rousing speech ahead of the vote which he described as «a contract with the Greek people."

The Greek premier, who is on Thursday to travel again to Brussels following a scheduled session of his new Cabinet on Wednesday, appeared to have succeeded in instilling some discipline in his party with last week?s reshuffle. Following a week of political turmoil that saw two Socialist party MPs, Giorgos Floridis and Ektoras Nasiokas, give up their seats in Parliament, PASOK deputies clearly closed ranks in the vote.

Earlier some PASOK skeptics had indicated that their backing was not unconditional. Panayiotis Kouroublis, who has indicated in recent weeks that he might vote against the government?s midterm program, told Parliament, ?I will vote for the government tonight but that does not mean I?m giving it carte blanche.?

One development that caused a stir on Tuesday night was a decision by Andreas Makrypidis - a Socialist MP who had been given the task of submitting the government?s midterm program in Parliament - to step aside. Makrypidis cited ?personal reasons? though sources said he was angered at not being elevated to a ministry position in the recent cabinet reshuffle.

In a related development, the Council of State deemed that the memorandum - Greece?s agreement with its creditors to implement reforms in exchange for emergency funding - was constitutional. The court threw out appeals by the Athens Bar Association, the civil servants? union ADEDY and GSEE, which represents workers in the private sector.

Also on Tuesday, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe - known as the ALDE group - adopted a proposal for an alternative to the Greek government?s austerity program made by former Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who leads the centrist Democratic Alliance party.

Bakoyannis?s proposal does not focus on public sector spending cuts and tax increases but foresees the creation of a national investment fund that would be partly financed by revenue from the privatization of state assets.