Premier: Socialist win shows Greece backs austerity plans

Premier: Socialist win shows Greece backs austerity plans

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said the strong support that voters gave his party in local elections Sunday is a clear indication of public backing for a wave of austerity measures to pull Greece out of massive debt, dpa reported.

Nearly a year after Prime Minister George Papandreou's Socialists won a landslide victory in national elections, the party was leading nationwide over the main opposition conservatives.

The governing Socialists were set to win nine out of 13 regional governor posts including regional governor in greater Athens, plus the mayoral race in Athens for the first time in 24 years.

Conservative incumbent Nikitas Kaklamanis conceded defeat to George Kaminis in Sunday's runoff for Athens mayor.

Papandreou dropped the threat of calling an early general election after the government held its ground in the first round on November 7, and he urged Greeks to back his reforms.

The prime minister vowed to pursue austerity measures to pull the debt-ridden country from the brink of economic collapse.

Greece has faced months of strikes as it plunged into recession, with rising unemployment and the closure of thousands of small businesses.

The government is required to slash spending and restructure large parts of the economy in exchange for the 110-billion-euro rescue plan funded by the International Monetary Fund and European Union.

The Socialists' parliamentary majority has approved measures such as wage and pension cuts and consumer tax increases in exchange for the bailout package.

Inspectors from the European Union and International Monetary Fund are due this week in Athens to take another look at the cost-cutting measures.

Athens may be forced to commit to further cuts when the EU is expected to revise the country's 2009 deficit upward to 15.5 per cent of GDP from the current projection of 13.6 per cent later this week.

Papandreou said in an newspaper interview that Greece could be forced to seek an extension for repaying the emergency loan and admitted that the deficit revision would add pressure on his government to make additional cuts.

"It is like running a marathon and discovering during the course of the race that more kilometres have been added," he told the Proto Thema newspaper.

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