Greek lawmakers launch confidence debate, vote expected on Friday

Greek lawmakers will begin debating on Wednesday whether to back Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s government, which has promised an early exit from the country’s EU/IMF bailout, with a confidence vote expected late on Friday.

Samaras called the confidence vote in an effort to quash mounting speculation that he would be forced to call snap elections because he does not have enough parliamentary support to push through a nominee for presidential elections next year.

Between his conservative New Democracy and Socialist PASOK junior partner, Samaras has the backing of 154 deputies in the 300-seat parliament and should win the vote without trouble, buying him time ahead of the presidential vote in February.

It should also allow his government to present a cohesive front as it tries to negotiate the early bailout exit with EU/IMF lenders, a move Samaras hopes will help him lure independent and opposition lawmakers to his side in the presidential vote.

But that has failed to reassure investors, who have taken fright at the prospect of a prolonged period of political paralysis as Greece could be forced to hold an early general election if gridlock in parliament means lawmakers are unable to elect a president.

Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos warned political uncertainty was undermining the Greek economy as it begins to emerge from its worst economic slump in decades.

“Five years of efforts, five years of hard sacrifices, could be destroyed in five days,” Venizelos said in a speech on Tuesday, referring to the February presidential vote.

“Five days are enough to take us back to 2009: budget deficits, no future, the collapse of competitiveness.”

He added that the government had sought a confidence vote to “mainly present our completed plan for a final bailout exit, a completed plan for the country to turn a page.”

Greek stocks were flat on Wednesday, with the benchmark share index up 0.12 percent to 1,013.3 points. Greek 10-year bond yields rose six basis points to 6.7 percent, extending the one-week high they hit on Tuesday.

“Investors do not see any political solution soon. The government is expected to win the confidence vote but this will mean things will be pushed back for another five months,” said Takis Zamanis, a trader at Beta Securities. [Reuters]

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