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Greek government survives no confidence motion

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DEMETRIS NELLAS | November 10, 2013 07:13 PM EST | AP

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's conservative-socialist coalition government survived a no-confidence motion tabled by the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) party early Monday, following an often heated three-day parliamentary debate.

The motion fell well short of the 151 votes needed to pass, with 124 lawmakers voting in favor and 153 against, Parliament speaker Evangelos Meimarakis announced after the roll-call vote was completed.

One socialist lawmaker voted in favor of the motion and was promptly expelled from her party's parliamentary group.

Besides SYRIZA, the motion was supported by the Communist Party, the right-wing populist Independent Greeks and the extreme right Golden Dawn. Democratic Left, a coalition partner for a year to June 2013, voted "present."

Absentees included 3 Golden Dawn lawmakers, including the party's leader and deputy leader, who have been jailed since October on charges of belonging to a criminal organization.

The no confidence motion was tabled Thursday, a few hours after Greek riot police ended a nearly five-month protest by sacked workers broadcasting from what was once the headquarters of the defunct ERT state broadcaster, removing a few dozen people occupying the complex.

The government, under pressure by Greece's international creditors to reform the public sector, had suddenly decided to close ERT in June, in a move heavily criticized by most opposition parties and the Democratic Left, which used the issue as an occasion to leave the coalition. The government has since set up a new, leaner broadcaster, with one channel instead of the previous three.

Although the motion of no confidence had limited chances of passing, SYRIZA used the debate to lambast the government for its policies. SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras accused the coalition government of being "under foreign control" and of taxing the poor to protect the rich.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras replied by accusing SYRIZA of frequently changing its positions in a populist grab for votes, supporting often violent reactions to government policies, and always rejecting necessary spending cuts. He defended the ruling coalition's program, saying it would result in a primary budget surplus this year — excluding spending on servicing the country's debt — and enable the government to start borrowing from the markets again by the end of 2014.

Greece has been surviving on international rescue loans from the International Monetary Fund and other European countries that use the euro since 2010, after a combination of dismal financial stewardship, loss of investor confidence and the global recession brought it to the brink of bankruptcy. Successive governments have passed repeated rounds of deep spending cuts and tax hikes to secure 240 billion euros ($324 billion dollars) in bailout loans.