NEWS

PPC focus of political standoff

A day after the coalition forced striking Public Power Corporation (PPC) staff back to work, it was unclear whether the government still faced a potential political challenge over its plans to part-privatize the power board.

Following the appeal by leftist SYRIZA for a referendum to be held on the plans to sell off 30 percent of the company to a private firm, another four opposition parties called for a plebiscite – Democratic Left (DIMAR), Golden Dawn, the Communist Party (KKE) and Independent Greeks. The latter said it would back SYRIZA’s proposal for a referendum while Golden Dawn and DIMAR said they would table their own proposals; KKE said it would only support a plebiscite if it is on the liberalization of the whole electricity sector and not just on the sale of the so-called “small PPC.”

Parliament Speaker Vangelis Meimarakis indicated in private comments that there was a possibility that the House’s plenary session, which is in recess for summer, could be convened for a debate on a possible referendum on the PPC sell-off – a plan that is due to go before a vote in the House on Wednesday. Meimarakis said it was possible that different proposals for a referendum could be considered together. A minimum of 120 votes is needed for a debate on a referendum to begin (with a majority of 180 needed for its approval). If counted together, the proposals by the five opposition parties amount to 125 MPs, meaning a discussion could begin. Meimarakis said he would consult Parliament’s Scientific Council for a final opinion. But there is another procedural hitch to be overcome. In order for a debate to begin, Parliament’s plenary session must convene, and for this to happen a presidential decree must be issued.

Sources close to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras distanced themselves from Meimarakis’s stance as the government has sought to gain political capital from ending the PPC workers’ strike. Unionists have vowed to continue their protest with other forms of action.

In a separate development, junior coalition partner PASOK has decided to hold a second conference in October, after its scheduled annual congress on September 3, in a bid to rebrand and give new momentum to the beleaguered party. The party aims to rally wavering center-left voters and re-establish PASOK’s influence.

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