Greek government wins no-confidence vote over wiretapping scandal

ATHENS, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Greece's conservative government on Friday survived a vote of no confidence put forward by the leftist opposition over a wiretapping scandal targeting politicians, army top brass and journalists.

Allegations of state surveillance have snowballed since the leader of the socialist PASOK party, Greece's third-largest, said last August that his phone had been tapped by the state intelligence service EYP in 2021.

But the government, which has denied any wrongdoing or knowingly wiretapping anyone, had been expected to survive Friday's vote.

"I have said that the wiretapping, or surveillance, of Mr. (Nikos) Androulakis was not politically acceptable," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told lawmakers before the vote. "There was my own, immediate disapproval of this."

The censure motion put forward by Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras was defeated by 156 votes to 143 in the 300-seat assembly.

A left-leaning newspaper reported last month that more than 30 people, including ministers, had been under state surveillance via phone malware.

Before submitting the censure motion on Wednesday, Tsipras said he and other political leaders were briefed on a separate investigation conducted by the independent telecommunications privacy authority ADAE.

Citing those conclusions, Tsipras said the government kept tabs on the energy minister and army chiefs.

"I'm absolutely convinced that the prime minister was not aware of this foul-smelling case," said former energy minister Kostis Hatzidakis, who is currently the labour minister.

A European Parliament commission of inquiry, known as PEGA, has been investigating the alleged use of spyware by European governments for almost a year.

Tsipras has not publicly said what alleged surveillance methods were used in the hacks. Local media have suggested the Predator malware programme was used, though Greek authorities have denied purchasing or using it.

A parliamentary election will be held in Greece in the spring, the government has said. Mitsotakis said on Friday he was confident his New Democracy party, which is leading in opinion polls, would win a second term.

"This government has proven it can come forward and deal with crises," he said.

Reporting by Karolina Tagaris and Lefteris Papadimas; Writing by Renee Maltezou and Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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