Greek Parliament Electing Speakers

Greek Parliament Electing Speakers

(AP) Greek Parliament electing speakers
ATHENS, Greece
Greece’s new lawmakers were voting for a Parliament speaker and deputy speakers Friday, in what could be the first showdown with an extremist right-wing party recently elected into office for the first time.

Golden Dawn won 18 of Parliament’s 300 seats in the June 17 elections, taking nearly 7 percent of the vote and horrifying Greece’s mainstream political establishment _ many of whom consider them to be neo-Nazis.

The party has been accused of violent attacks against immigrants, and had campaigned on a platform of expelling all immigrants and planting landmines along Greece’s borders. One of its new deputies recently made headlines by striking a female Communist Party candidate three times, and throwing a glass of water over another left-wing party member during a live television political talk show.

As the fifth largest party in the legislature, Golden Dawn is entitled to field a candidate for the post of one of the seven deputy speakers. The party with the most seats, the conservative New Democracy, is entitled to put forward candidates for the Parliament Speaker and two deputies.

New Democracy’s Evangelos Meimarakis, who served as defense minister from 2006-2009, was elected Speaker with 223 votes of the 290 deputies present _ a record number of votes since the restoration of democracy after the end of the 1967-74 military dictatorship.

The vote for the legislature’s seven deputy speakers was set for Friday afternoon. To be elected, a candidate would need 75 votes _ a third of Parliament. With 18 seats and shunned by all the other political parties, it was a near certainty that a Golden Dawn candidate would fail to win a post.

In what would be a first in the Greek parliament, the deputy speaker post allocated to Golden Dawn would then be left empty. Under regulations, the post does not move on to the next party.

The country’s new lawmakers were sworn in Thursday, as a protracted political crisis that led to two general elections and a series of power-sharing negotiations drew to an end. The uncertainty had roiled international markets, as questions arose as to Greece’s ability to implement reforms required for it to continue receiving funds from its international bailout loans _ the only thing keeping it from defaulting on its debts.

New Democracy, led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, has formed a coalition government with longtime socialist rivals PASOK, and the smaller Democratic Left party, which came in just behind Golden Dawn with 6.26 percent of the vote and 17 seats.