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Greek lawmakers begin confidence vote debate

November 2, 2011

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ATHENS, Greece—Lawmakers on Wednesday began debating a confidence vote on the Socialist government -- called after Prime Minister George Papandreou proposed a snap referendum on Greece's EU bailout deal.

The parliamentary vote could topple Papandreou's government, which only has a two-seat majority in the 300-member assembly as eight dissenting Socialist deputies have so far left or been expelled since he took office two years ago.

The debate is scheduled to last for three days, with a vote sometime Friday.

Several prominent Socialists are also calling for early elections, angry at how austerity measures are being imposed by their own government during the country's financial crisis.

Meanwhile, Papandreou traveled to Cannes, France, on Wednesday to explain himself to European leaders angry over his surprise referendum on a bailout deal that took them months to work out.

Papandreou's decision on Monday to call a referendum was met with hostility by world markets and European leaders, and heightened political animosity in Greece, with opposition parties all renewing demands for a general election.

Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis told state television that the referendum could be held as early as December.

In parliament, Socialist ministers defended the move at the start of the Wednesday's debate session.

"Opposition parties attack out policies and claim they are speaking for the people. So let's ask the people what they want," Public Sector Reform Minister Dimitris Reppas said.

"There is no truer democratic procedure than a referendum."

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