Greece’s two-party government faces a stern test on Wednesday night, when MPs will vote on more than 100 articles contained in a multi-bill of reforms that paves the way for sackings and job transfers in the civil service.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos met on Tuesday to discuss the mood in their respective parties, New Democracy and PASOK. They were joined by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis. The coalition has 155 MPs, giving it a slim majority in the 300-seat Parliament but there was relative confidence among government officials that any defections would be kept to a minimum.
The government appears more concerned about the long-term impact of alienating the country’s 325 mayors, especially since local elections are due next year. Mayors have expressed opposition to a range of reforms, particularly the fact that many local authority workers will be among the 25,000 civil servants to be placed in a job transfer scheme by the end of the year. The government conceded some ground on Tuesday by agreeing not to move municipal police officers or school caretakers if they had postgraduate degrees. More importantly, though, the coalition decided to withdraw a provision that would have led to mayors facing disciplinary action for not keeping within their budgets. It also backed down on the powers that an observatory set up to monitor municipal finances would have. The watchdog will not have the right to intervene in the drawing up of municipal budgets, as had previously been planned.
Nevertheless, the government came under attack on Tuesday from its own MPs as ministers were largely absent from the first day of debate for the multi-bill. “Which ministers are here to give us answers?” said New Democracy lawmaker Nikitas Kaklamanis. “The government is giving a terrible impression, as if it does not have the courage to support the bill it wants us to vote for.”
SYRIZA MP Sofia Sakorafa caused a stir during the debate when she referred to the government as a “gang” that had to be punished.