Greek prime minister survives confidence vote
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Kai Ryssdal: Greek lawmakers took their time tonight, but vote they did. Prime Minister George Papandreou won his vote of confidence, after a debate on the bailout package that’s meant to save the euro. Won by the hair on his chinny chin chin, though: 153 to 145.
Our senior editor Paddy Hirsch joins me to explain what happens next. Hey Paddy.
Paddy Hirsch: Hello Kai.
Ryssdal: So we’re done! Euro saved, the vote of confidence passed and we can all go home now, right?
Hirsch: Maybe. Depends on the numbers. The bailout package has to be supported by a parliamentary super majority of 180 votes. And as you said, only 153 representatives voted for Papandreou in this session tonight. So he, or his party, now have to build a coalition government. And if they don’t, Greece isn’t going to get the first installment of its bailout money, which means Greece will go bankrupt.
Ryssdal: Talk to me about that coalition: What are the odds, do you suppose, that it does actually wind up happening?
Hirsch: It looks pretty difficult right now, let’s not get into the politics — it’ll bore the living daylights out of you — but the main opposition is refusing to help, so Papandreou’s party is going to have to team up with three other marginal parties, including the Communists, to get this done. And that process of cajoling and convincing and prodding starts tomorrow.
Ryssdal: So there’s been talk that he would just resign if he won, right? Which now that he’s won, is it possible that he could step down and start from scratch?
Hirsch: Maybe. I mean, he said things during his speech tonight that suggests he’d be willing to resign, but there are no guarantees with this. He’s an enormously unpopular and divisive figure, so his resignation could help. But you know, this is Greece, and he may just say that this vote of confidence kind of gives him a twisted mandate to push on as Greece’s leader. That would incredibly unpopular, very incendiary, it could kill the coalition and force possibly a general election.
Ryssdal: And if you play that out, that takes at least weeks, right?
Hirsch: Yeah, maybe even months. Meanwhile, it’s not just the parliament that’s in disarray — the Greek people are on the streets right now, they’re complaining about the austerity program. So there’s considerable social unrest and that’s only going to add to the uncertainty about Greece’s fate, and by extension, the eurozone.
Ryssdal: Yeah, so let’s cut to the chase on that whole uncertainty thing. I mean, there has been so far in this crisis, a certain certainty to the uncertainty, and now we really don’t know what’s going on. So play the markets out for me.
Hirsch: Well, the markets are going to be hanging themselves. I mean, they know that European leaders aren’t going to do what it takes to save Greece. And this is obvious now that the country’s political parties are in such disarray that they’re incapable of saving themselves. So this lack of will to make hard decisions has been driving the markets to distraction for weeks, which is why we can expect to see a lot more in the way in kind of wild swings in the next month or so.
Ryssdal: So give me your gut then on the question you didn’t really answer to begin with, which is: Is the euro going to be saved? I mean, is there a way this doesn’t work out?
Hirsch: I think that the euro gets saved. I think there’s too much at stake here and I think that the Greek parliamentarians know that this is a lot of political jocking back and forth. But in the end, this vote didn’t even go down on party lines — one person across the aisle to join Papandreou’s party. It’s only one person, but it shows that people are willing to actually get this done. So I think it’s a brave decision by the Greek parliament actually to get this done, and I think they will push through.
Ryssdal: And the markets have the weekend to think about it. Paddy Hirsch, our senior editor, on the Greek no-confidence story tonight.
Hirsch: Thanks Kai.
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