Stournaras under fire from ND deputies

Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou made it clear on Monday that Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras retains the backing of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras despite growing opposition within the ranks of ruling New Democracy to some of the minister’s austerity policies and his recent criticism of former conservative premier Costas Karamanlis.

Speaking to Skai television on Monday, Kedikoglou remarked that “Stournaras is doing a very difficult job and he’s doing it well.” Questioned about the minister’s reference, in an interview with Sunday’s Kathimerini, to the massive increase in public spending that occurred between 2006 and 2009 under Karamanlis’s watch, Kedikoglou acknowledged that there had been a “fiscal derailment” during that period.

Kedikoglou and aides close to Samaras also back Stournaras in his drafting of unpopular reforms such as a new unified property tax. But they have not managed to appease the growing voices of dissent, raising fears about whether the new measures will secure the required parliamentary majority to pass into law.

In recent days several ND deputies have expressed their exasperation with Stournaras. The party’s secretary Manolis Kefaloyannis on Monday suggested in comments to 98.9 FM radio station that Stournaras has become too big for his boots. “Criticizing everything is a bit arrogant,” Kefaloyiannis said. Party spokesman Makis Voridis struck a similar tone, saying that Stournaras’s comments “don’t help,” and defended Karamanlis’s governance in a speech in Serres, northern Greece.

Stournaras has also been the focus of critical comments recently by other conservative MPs including Nikitas Kaklamanis, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Evangelos Antonaros.

Apart from Kedikoglou, expressions of government support for Stournaras were few and far between. A spokesman for junior coalition partner Democratic Left, Andreas Papadopoulos, remarked that Stournaras’s criticism of the Karamanlis government was “not news.” “The news is that there are still people who defend it,” Papadopoulos said in a Twitter posting.