Greek PM faces biggest party revolt yet as bailout approved

Fri Aug 14, 2015 9:12am EDT
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By Lefteris Papadimas and Deepa Babington

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faced the widest rebellion yet from his leftist lawmakers as parliament approved a new bailout program on Friday, forcing him to consider a confidence vote that could pave the way for early elections.

After lawmakers bickered through the night on procedural matters, Tsipras comfortably won the vote on the country's third financial rescue by foreign creditors in five years thanks to support from pro-euro opposition parties. That clears the way for euro zone ministers to approve the deal later on Friday.

But the vote laid bare the depth of anger within Tsipras's leftist Syriza party at austerity measures in exchange for 85 billion euros in aid, as 43 lawmakers - or nearly a third of Syriza deputies - voted against or abstained.

The unexpectedly large contingent of dissenters, including former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, heaped new pressure on Tsipras to swiftly clear the rebels from his party and call early elections to lock in popular support.

Tsipras remains hugely popular in Greece for standing up to Germany's insistence on austerity before capitulating under the threat of a euro zone exit. He would be expected to win again if snap polls were held now, given an opposition in disarray.

"I do not regret my decision to compromise," Tsipras said as he defended the bailout from euro zone and International Monetary Fund creditors in parliament. "We undertook the responsibility to stay alive over choosing suicide."

But the vote left the government with support from within its own coalition below the threshold of 120 votes in the 300-seat chamber, the minimum needed to command a majority and survive a confidence vote if others abstain.

In response, government officials said Tsipras was expected to call a confidence vote in parliament after Greece makes a debt payment to the European Central Bank on Aug. 20 - a move that could trigger the government's collapse and snap elections.   Continued...

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos reacts as deputies attempt to disrupt his speech during a night parliamentary session in Athens, Greece, early August 14, 2015.  REUTERS/Christian Hartmann