ND scrapes through vote

New Democracy survived a vote late on Tuesday by MPs who decided not to indict former Aegean Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis over corruption charges, but the party will be tested by two further ballots this week. The results of the vote, announced early yesterday morning, mean that the government will not be forced into calling early elections and Greeks will vote only in the European Parliamentary poll on June 7. However, PASOK has asked Parliament to vote today on whether to set up a committee to investigate the Siemens cash-for-contracts scandal. It has also prompted a vote, to take place tomorrow, on whether Parliament should launch a separate inquiry into claims that Pavlidis’s entire system for awarding state-subsidized contracts for ferries to operate to remote islands was corrupt. A second investigation into the former minister would put a severe strain on the government. Although yesterday’s vote result did not lead to further action against Pavlidis, it did not leave the ruling conservatives unscathed. The results showed that 146 deputies voted in favor of indicting Pavlidis while 144 voted against and eight cast blank ballots or simply voted «present.» For further action to be taken, 151 votes were needed. The final outcome indicated that two opposition MPs had not voted against the ex-minister but six government deputies also failed to support him, probably opting for blank votes instead. Several conservative MPs, including former Deputy Minister Gerasimos Giakoumatos and Yiannis Manolis, admitted that they did not vote against Pavlidis because they feared that it would lead to early elections. This seemed to make a mockery of government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros’s claim that «the deputies voted according to their conscience and in line with the Constitution.» PASOK insisted that the result was a defeat for the government and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, drawing attention to the fact that Pavlidis did not have the confidence of the majority of the House.