NEWS

Coalition faces new test

PM says deal with troika done but junior partner still opposes labor reforms

The fragile cohesion of the governing coalition faced a fresh test on Tuesday after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras announced the conclusion of negotiations with the troika on a new austerity package and a raft of structural reforms even as the junior coalition partner, Democratic Left, reiterated its objections to controversial labor reforms.

In a statement issued while the leaders of Democratic Left and socialist PASOK, Fotis Kouvelis and Evangelos Venizelos, were chairing meetings with their MPs, Samaras declared that the ?negotiations on the measures and the budget have been completed.?

?We did everything we could. We achieved significant improvements,? noting that Greece would remain in the euro if the package was passed and otherwise risked ?descending into chaos.? ?It is now down to the sense of responsibility of all political parties and each individual MP,? Samaras said.

Democratic Left issued a rejection within minutes, saying it does not agree with the outcome of negotiations with troika and repeating its objection to labor reforms. ?Democratic Left has fought to defend labor relations... and sticks by its positions,? it said. Earlier in the day, party spokesman Dimitris Hatzisocratis told Skai Radio that Democratic Left was trying to ?force the situation? so that the decision on labor reforms is taken by eurozone leaders rather than the troika.

Venizelos, for his part, described Samaras?s statement as ?unfortunate to say the least? but stressed the need for his party to back the new austerity package though three of his MPs said they would vote no.

The developments came before the scheduled submission in Parliament on Wednesday of the budget for 2013. The 13.5-billion-euro austerity package and the structural reforms will not come to Parliament until next week, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said. Stournaras is on Wednesday to brief his eurozone peers on the austerity and reforms that have been tentatively agreed with the troika.

Online