Former defense minister named House speaker

Former Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis was elected speaker of Parliament on Friday with a record number of 223 votes and immediately after his appointment called on members of the 300-seat House to back the efforts of the new coalition government to help Greece emerge from an unprecedented economic crisis.

Conservative New Democracy?s sole candidate for the job, Meimarakis received backing from MPs in socialist PASOK and Democratic Left — the other two coalition partners — as well as deputies from other parties.

On Thursday, radical left coalition SYRIZA and right-wing Independent Greeks were thought to be opposing the nomination but in the end several opposition lawmakers backed the veteran conservative for the job in the secret vote. There were 66 blank votes and one spoiled ballot with the remainder abstaining.

MPs also voted for six deputy presidents in Parliament, from each of the parties that managed to enter the 300-seat House, except for extreme-right Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn), whose candidate failed to garner the minimum of 75 votes, drawing just 41. The ultra-right party issued a statement after the vote, saying that it would lodge an appeal with the European Court of Justice over the non-representation of its party among the deputy presidents in Greece?s Parliament, while party leader Nikos Michaloliakos commented that ?New Democracy and SYRIZA cooperated very well to exclude us.?

Following his election, Meimarakis will have to settle a dispute between SYRIZA and the Communist Party (KKE) regarding MPs? seating arrangements in the House.

Born in Athens in 1953, Meimarakis is a veteran New Democracy member who has been a member of Parliament since 1989. A lawyer, Meimarakis was a founding member of the conservative party?s youth organization, ONNED. He served as deputy minister for culture during the 1992-93 period and was appointed defense minister in 2006.

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