ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's new three-party coalition government won a vote of confidence in parliament early Monday, ending a period of uncertainty that led to two elections in less than two months, though the country has a long way to go to emerge from a deep recession and pay down its huge debt.
There were no surprises in the vote. All 179 deputies of the three parties supporting the government — conservative New Democracy, the socialist PASOK and the moderate leftist Democratic Left — voted in favor. Voting against were the 121 deputies of the Radical Left Coalition (Syriza), the nationalist right Independent Greeks, the extreme right Golden Dawn and the Communist Party.
In his concluding speech just before the vote, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said that, despite their diverse political backgrounds, the three coalition partners have a unity of purpose — to keep the country in the Eurozone and out of its deepest and longest recession, now in its fifth year.
In the third quarter, the country's GDP had its sharpest drop yet, declining 9.1 percent compared to the same period in 2011. Greece's battered economy is forecast to shrink 6.7 percent for the whole year, far above earlier official forecasts of a 4.5 percent shrinkage.
"Us three, we have admitted our past mistakes and we are now embarked in a common cause," Samaras said, addressing the opposition. "You keep clinging to your own dogmas and the same old populist logic. ... Unfortunately, (our opponents) don't seem to have matured. Fortunately, we don't take them seriously," he said.
Samaras attacked Syriza, accusing them of trying to undermine any attempts at reform because they want to lead Greece out of the euro. He specifically accused Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras for warning prospective investors, politicians and civil servants that agreeing to and implementing privatizations might lead to investors losing their money and civil servants and politicians to jail.
"You are trying to intimidate us into doing nothing...you play the same game as those who want to push Greece out of the euro," Samaras said. "Look, Mr. Tsipras. You better drop your threats."
The coalition partners have vowed to try to convince Greece's lenders — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — to extend by up to three years the period of "fiscal adjustment" Greece must undergo to start producing budget surpluses and to ease the terms of the bailout deals. But they know this will be no easy task.