Greece PM Tsipras wins confidence vote ahead of triple poll challenge

In all, 153 of 300 lawmakers voted for Tsipras, who called the confidence vote - his second of the year - after the right wing opposition sought to censure one of his government's junior ministers.
In all, 153 of 300 lawmakers voted for Tsipras, who called the confidence vote - his second of the year - after the right wing opposition sought to censure one of his government's junior ministers.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ATHENS (AFP) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras won as expected a vote of confidence in parliament Friday (May 10), shoring up support ahead of a triple election challenge that kicks off this month.

Greece will hold local elections at the same time as European Parliament polls on May 26, followed by a national vote expected in October.

In all, 153 of 300 lawmakers voted for Tsipras, who called the confidence vote - his second of the year - after the rightwing opposition sought to censure one of his government's junior ministers.

With the motion carried in his favour, Tsipras told the assembly that "this parliament will progressively deal with injustice for the sake of generations to come and the underprivileged."

Looking ahead to the EU polls he added: "On May 26 the Greek people will send a message to the elite but also to the arrogant. We shall continue to work with dignity, humility doggedness and answer only to society.

Before the vote he had asked for parliament to allow the government the chance "to implement the next four years of our social recovery plan."

After four years in power, Tsipras is trailing in the polls by some five per cent to the main opposition New Democracy party and is hoping to galvanise his leftist Syriza party in the run-up to the end of his term in October.

 
 

"The European and local elections are in principle considered to be secondary votes compared to the national polls," said Thanassis Diamantopoulos, politics professor at Panteion University in Athens.

"But this time, the European elections are almost as decisive for Greece," he said, being "a kind of dress rehearsal" for the national legislative vote.

Tsipras called the confidence vote after New Democracy had sought to censure deputy health minister Pavlos Polakis.

Polakis drew fire after saying it was "shameful" that a New Democracy EU election candidate - 34-year-old psychiatrist Stelios Kybouropoulos, who suffers spinal muscular atrophy - had legally used a disability quota to find a job at a state hospital.

New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said it was "blackmail" that Tsipras had "turned the censure motion into a vote of confidence", calling the prime minister a "liar" and a "hypocrite".

Economic pitch

Tsipras hopes to capitalise on Greece's economic performance under his watch as the country slowly emerges from years of crippling austerity measures.

On Tuesday he announced sweeping tax cuts on food and dining and energy and hotel accommodation and unveiled an extra monthly stipend for the country's poorest pensioners.

He also said that government savings and a better-than-expected fiscal year meant Greece would be able to pay off 3.6 billion euros ($4.03 billion) in "costly" loans from the International Monetary Fund.

The opposition slammed the measures as "political opportunism" aimed at buying votes.

The headline of the liberal Kathimerini newspaper read "Tsipras' last bet" on Wednesday following the announcement.

Despite an economic recovery since 2017, Greeks are still battling their way back from a deep recession and the unemployment rate remains the highest in the eurozone at 18 percent.