SYRIZA struggles to get PPC referendum backing

SYRIZA’s attempt to force a parliamentary discussion about whether Greece should hold a referendum over the privatization of its state electricity monopoly, the Public Power Corporation (PPC), looks likely to fail despite the opposition party garnering some support on Thursday.

The leftists need to get the backing of at least 120 out of 300 MPs for Parliament to debate and then vote on whether to hold a plebiscite to green-light or halt government plans to sell 30 percent of PPC to a private investor. It would need a minimum of 180 votes for the referendum to take place.

SYRIZA has 71 MPs and its effort to drum up support for its proposal began well on Thursday as the anti-austerity Independent Greeks declared they would back the initiative. “Independent Greeks agree with the demand of the majority of Greeks for a referendum to be held on the sale of PPC,” said the right-wing party’s leader Panos Kammenos despite some skepticism from someal of his MPs who are uneasy about siding with PPC unionists.

There were also welcoming signs from Democratic Left (DIMAR), which has not yet publicly stated it is in favor of a referendum but has voiced its objections to the privatization of Greece’s power company.

Also, five independent MPs – Paris Moutsinas, Nikos Stavroyiannis, Giorgos Kasapidis, Markos Bolaris and Vassilis Kapernaros – issued a statement saying that they would back the proposal for a referendum.

However, the Communist Party (KKE) indicated that it would not back SYRIZA’s move, which would leave the leftists without the 120 MPs they need.

KKE leader Dimitris Koutsoubas told SYRIZA chief Alexis Tsipras that his party wanted a referendum but only if it aimed at all the laws regarding the liberalization of the energy sector being scrapped. After their discussion SYRIZA said it would be willing to consider such an option, which piled more pressure on KKE to back an adjusted proposal.

The coalition responded by accusing Tsipras of not genuinely wanting a referendum but trying to lock other opposition parties into an informal alliance. “What Mr Tsipras is really aiming for is to trap parties and MPs in a front that will try to block the election of a new president of the republic,” said State Minister Dimitris Stamatis in reference to the need for Parliament to elect a successor to Karolos Papoulias early next year.