Three coalition MPs may oppose multi-bill, threatening gov't majority

The number of government MPs who have indicated they will vote against a provision changing regulations for fresh milk – part of the multi-bill including the measures agreed with the troika – rose to three on Thursday, which is equal to the government’s parliamentary majority.

After New Democracy lawmaker Maximos Harakopoulos, who is also alternate agricultural development minister, made it known he would refuse to support the article, which ends the five-day shelf-life limit on fresh milk, PASOK deputies Thanos Moraitis and Michalis Kassis also said they would oppose it.

“I will not vote for the provision, why should I vote for it?” Kassis told Vima FM. He argued that the change in legislation would not bring down the price of milk because it is more dependent on middlemen and supermarkets rather than producers.

There is no imminent danger of the government losing the vote if the three MPs carry through with their threat as it is expected that Andreas Loverdos, the former PASOK minister who now leads his own party, would vote for the multi-bill. In this case, the government would count on the vote of another PASOK exile, Christos Aidonis, who joined Loverdos. However, the expulsion of the three rebel MPs from the government would clearly weaken the coalition.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday repeated to an international audience the message he had heralded from Athens on Tuesday, when his government and the troika reached an agreement on the economic reforms needed to release further rescue funding. Addressing a joint press conference with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, Samaras insisted that Greece was emerging from its economic crisis and said his government’s priorities were to “boost social cohesion and fix mistakes.” The Greek premier repeated that Athens is on track to post a primary surplus and revealed that the amount to be distributed to “Greeks hit hardest” by the crisis will be 525 million euros.

Samaras, who was in Brussels with his EU peers for talks to finalize a centralized European banking union, conceded that Greece’s improved economic indicators had not trickled through to the labor market, adding that unemployment should not be allowed to worsen.