Greek vote vindicates austerity cuts: finance minister

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The results of Sunday's local elections prove that Greece understands the government's harsh austerity measures were "necessary," Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said Monday.

"Surprisingly, despite the fact that difficult things were discussed, we were not beaten at last night's elections, we came first," Papaconstantinou said during a seminar at the London School of Economics.

"If national elections took place tomorrow, then we would win," he added.

"Despite the protests, despite all the problems, there is an understanding that what is being done is necessary," the minister continued.

The governing Socialist party suffered a slip in support compared with the 2009 legislative elections, but still finished ahead in seven out of 13 regions and is still in the running for the country's main cities after the first electoral round.

The government's austerity cuts were deemed as crucial in trying to convince international markets of its commitment to deficit reduction as directed by the International Monetary Fund and the countries of the eurozone.

Papaconstantinou said the situation in Greece was "beginning to stabilize" but that it was "the first step on a long road."

According to the minister, "Greek society has to look itself in the mirror and make some very tough decisions."

Papaconstantinou claimed there were "three lessons" to be learnt from the crisis.

"Lesson number one, if you delay things for a very long time, they catch you up; lesson number two, time costs money; lesson number three, you need a permanent mechanism at the European level," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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