REPORTING FROM ATHENS — Greece's new prime minister, Lucas Papademos, won a crucial confidence vote Wednesday on severe austerity measures to be made in exchange for more bailout funds to help the country step back from the brink of bankruptcy.
Papademos, 64, a bespectacled former central bank governor who guided Greece's entry into the Eurozone 11 years ago, won the support of 255 lawmakers in the country's 300-seat parliament. Thirty-eight legislators voted against the week-old government.
The ringing endorsement is a first step toward winning back investor confidence in the country's commitment to belt-tightening measures, reforms and a complex loan deal last month with European leaders who want to contain the continent's growing debt crisis.
"The task that this government assumes is titanic," Papademos told lawmakers moments before the vote. "Every single vote cast in favor [of this government] is an act of responsibility — one that will not endanger the country's future in the eurozone."
However, cracks are already showing in the new power-sharing government, which consists of Greece's Socialist party, the conservative New Democracy party and a small, far-right group.
Eurozone leaders want written assurances from the three parties that they will do whatever is necessary to make the new bailout work, meaning ever-more painful austerity measures in exchange for $170 billion in emergency aid and a massive write-down of Greece’s nearly $500-billion debt. Failure to do so, they warn, will block the disbursement of $11 billion in rescue funds which Greece needs to avoid default next month.
This week, New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras refused to heed European officials' demands for a written commitment, saying details of the agreement had yet to be negotiated.
"I don’t sign such statements," Samaras said. "They are humiliating. My word should be sufficient."
— Anthee Carassava
Photo: Prime Minister Lucas Papademos addresses Parliament before a vote of confidence in Athens on Wednesday. Credit: Yiorgos Karahalis / Reuters