NEWS

Gov't resists opposition pressure for referendum on PPC selloff

Fifteen independent MPs on Tuesday backed a proposal by leftist SYRIZA for Parliament to launch a debate on a referendum on the government’s plans to part-privatize the Public Power Corporation (PPC) as government spokesperson Sofia Voultepsi insisted that separate proposals by opposition parties should not count as one.

The 15 independents indicated that they would support SYRIZA’s call for a debate on whether a plebiscite should be held on plans for spinning off some 30 percent of PPC to a private investor. A vote on the planned spin-off is due to take place in Parliament on Wednesday.

The expression of support from the independents prompted SYRIZA, which also has the support of Independent Greeks and the majority of Democratic Left (DIMAR), to push its demand for a referendum. So far SYRIZA has the backing of around 108 MPs, just short of the minimum of 120 it needs for a discussion on a referendum to begin. But, according to sources, SYRIZA is confident it can reach the minimum by counting in the MPs of the Communist Party (KKE), which has said it wants a referendum on the liberalization of the electricity sector in general. Golden Dawn has also said it will lodge its own proposal for a referendum on PPC but SYRIZA does not want to be associated with the neofascist party.

Voultepsi insisted on Tuesday that separate proposals should not be counted together. “It is certain that they cannot be added up,” she said. “So there is no real point to any further discussion.”

Her comments came a few hours after Parliament Speaker Vangelis Meimarakis said it was possible that the House’s plenary session, which is in recess for summer, could be convened for a debate on a referendum on the PPC sell-off. Meimarakis reiterated his opinion on Tuesday, however, saying “the government has nothing to fear” and suggesting that leaving the matter unresolved could aggravate the situation. He suggested waiting for the opinion of Parliament’s Scientific Council and the proposals from the different parties, stressing however that the final decision on whether Parliament’s plenary should reconvene lay with the government.

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