Eleventh-hour effort to secure vote

With just a few hours to go before a critical vote in Parliament on a new package of austerity measures, ruling PASOK and the main opposition New Democracy party reportedly made a last-ditch attempt on Tuesday to win round dissenters straying from party lines.

Sources told Kathimerini that senior lawmakers in the Socialist and conservative camps met with or telephoned dissident MPs ahead of Wednesday?s knife-edge vote. Although ruling PASOK has a five-seat majority in the 300-seat Parliament, one MP has stated outright that he will vote against the austerity measures and at least three others have expressed serious reservations.

PASOK?s Kozani deputy Alexandros Athanasiadis reportedly stuck to his guns on Tuesday despite party pressure, insisting that he would vote against the austerity plan. His chief objection is against plans to reduce the state?s stake in the Public Power Company to 34 percent from 51 percent. His constituency, in northeastern Greece, is home to several PPC plants which employ thousands of locals.

Other PASOK dissenters appeared to soften their stance on Tuesday. Thomas Robopoulos, who last weekend suggested he would vote against the austerity bill, appeared to be reconsidering his position following talks with Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Monday.

Speaking on Skai TV on Tuesday morning, Robopoulos said that he would decide ?at the very last moment, after I have listened to all the speakers.? ?This is a crucial moment; if the memorandum does not pass we shall go bankrupt,? he added, referring to the new austerity package.

The stances of PASOK deputies Panayiotis Kouroublis and Chryssa Arapoglou, who have also expressed serious doubts about the program, remained unclear yesterday.

There were also reports on Tuesday of pressure being applied on mavericks within the ranks of ND too. Elsa Papadimitriou, an ND deputy who suggested earlier this week that she would go against the party line and vote for the measures, was believed to be the focus of ND concern. Sources suggested that dissenters would be ejected from the party.

The three other main parties in Parliament are expected to oppose the measures. But it remained unclear how smaller groupings would position themselves. Dora Bakoyannis, a former ND foreign minister and head of the Democratic Alliance center-right party, did not determine how her party?s five members would vote but called for ?votes of conscience.?

Even if the government wins Wednesday?s vote it is not necessarily home free as Thursday?s vote - on a bill outlining the implementation of the measures set out in the first bill - must also be secured if the next tranche of rescue funding is to be released by the country?s creditors and snap elections are to be averted.