Confidence vote in Greece as parties eye post-austerity era

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek lawmakers are set to hold a vote of confidence in the left-wing government late Friday after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras turned a censure motion against a junior minister into a test of his entire administration.

Tsipras is expected to win the ballot. His Syriza party has 145 seats in the 300-member parliament, but he’s also counting on the support of independent lawmakers.

He is trailing conservative in opinion polls, and faces national elections in October.

Political parties have, however, been campaigning heavily in recent weeks ahead of May 26 European Parliament elections and concurrent two-round local government elections on May 26 and June 2 — with competing promises of tax relief and social spending programs following Greece’s exit last year from its eight-year bailout era that involved a wide array of austerity measures.

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Draconian spending controls have eased slightly since the end of Greece’s third international bailout last August and the country has partly restored independent financing with two successful bond auctions earlier this year.

The vote of confidence follows a motion by main opposition, the conservative New Democracy party, against a deputy health minister over his disparaging remarks about one of its politicians who uses a wheelchair.

Deputy minister, Pavlos Polakis, claimed Stelios Kymbouropoulos, a conservative European Parliament candidate who has spinal muscular atrophy, had received preferential treatment in securing a state job in the national health system due to his disability.

Tsipras backed Polakis, who has also sparked controversy by flouting laws against smoking in closed public areas, and requested the confidence vote.

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