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Greek parliament clears ex-minister on corruption

Greek parliament clears ex-minister on corruption

Greece's parliament cleared a former minister in a corruption probe that had threatened to trigger early elections.
Lawmakers voted early Tuesday against a motion to indict former conservative minister Aristotelis Pavlides. He had faced allegations that he encouraged a close aide to demand bribes from a ship owner in exchange for a lucrative contract to serve far-flung Aegean Sea islands.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' conservative government has a majority of one seat in the 300-member parliament.
Parliament Speaker Dimitris Sioufas announced that 146 lawmakers voted to indict Pavlides, falling short of the 151 votes required.
Sioufas said 144 voted against the indictment, with eight casting blank or empty ballots and two deputies absent.
Elections are not due until 2011. But Karamanlis' center right government has been trailing the opposition Socialists in opinion polls for the past six months _ hurt by the international financial crisis and corruption scandals that have prompted four ministers to resign in the last two years.
The Socialists are demanding that Karamanlis hold a general election on June 7, together with a vote for members of the European Parliament.
In parliament late Monday, Pavlides angrily denied allegations that he received bribes from a shipowner awarded a state-subsidized tender for ferry routes to remote Greek islands.
"I may have made political mistakes, but in matters of (financial) management, I have always been very strict," said Pavlides, a former Aegean Minister.
"I'm not about to cry. Decide what you like," he said. "I am prepared for every outcome. All I ask for is justice, justice."
Opposition leader George Papandreou, speaking before the vote, said voters had lost trust in the government because of the corruption scandals.
"The image of a government which appears to be taken hostage by corruption is bad for everyone. It is bad for our system of democracy and it is bad for the confidence of the Greek people," Papandreou said in a televised address.
A poll published Monday gave the opposition Socialists a 2.2 percent lead over New Democracy for June's European parliamentary elections. In the poll in the Ta Nea newspaper, 79 percent of the respondents also said Pavlides should be tried.
Under Greek law, only parliament can indict former or serving cabinet ministers.
The vote announced Tuesday followed a three-week investigation by a parliamentary committee which said there was insufficient evidence to convict Pavlides.
Opposition lawmakers on the committee issued separate finding in disagreement with the conservative majority.


Updated : 2021-05-17 18:57 GMT+08:00