NEWS

Greece faces close votes

Gov?t sources expect measures to pass on but coalition future appears uncertain

New Democracy and PASOK officials were hopeful over the weekend that the coalition government will receive the necessary support in crucial votes on Wednesday and Sunday to pass the structural reforms and budget cuts demanded by its lenders, and pave the way for the release of the next bailout tranche.

Sources at the two parties told Kathimerini that they expect between 153 and 157 deputies to back the measures. The only way this number could increase is if a solution is found to the objections that Democratic Left, the junior coalition partner, has to some of the labor reforms demanded by the troika. The leftist party has 16 lawmakers.

Sources close to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said that contact with the coalition parties and the troika would continue until Wednesday?s vote, when the structural reforms will be put before deputies, but it was unlikely that any major concessions would be made. Should Democratic Left fail to support the measures, there is a possibility it will reject the budget, which will be voted on late Sunday. This would likely lead to the party quitting the coalition.

Samaras is hoping that all 127 of his lawmakers pass the measures and that there is enough backing from PASOK deputies as well. The Socialists lost one lawmaker last week and another said he would not back the measures, leaving 31 MPs. PASOK sources said that they expect at least 26 of the party?s lawmakers to back the measures in Parliament, thereby giving the government the majority it needs.

Nevertheless, even this eventuality would leave the government severely weakened and reduced from three parties to just two. Sources suggested that Samaras might seek a way of keeping Democratic Left in the coalition by offering its leader, Fotis Kouvelis, the opportunity to commit in writing to the budget and all the structural reforms bar the changes to labor legislation.

Parliament?s economic affairs committee began debating the 2013 budget on Saturday. ?It is easier for someone to believe in Father Christmas than to believe that these will be the last [austerity] measures,? said SYRIZA MP Euclid Tsakalotos.

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