MPs approve PPC sell-off but referendum issue unresolved

The Greek Parliament on Wednesday approved legislation paving the way for the part-privatization of the Public Power Corporation (PPC) but opposition parties did not give up their efforts to force a discussion about a referendum on the sale.

In the House’s reduced summer session, 51 of 100 MPs voted in favor of the creation and sale of the so-called “small PPC,” which consists of 30 percent of the public electricity monopoly. One MP voted “present” and another 46 opposed the legislation, whose passing was one of the six prior actions the government had to fulfill to receive a further 1-billion-euro sub-tranche of bailout funding.

The approval of the legislation, however, did not settle the question of whether lawmakers will have to be recalled from their vacations and a full plenary of Parliament be called to debate and vote on whether a plebiscite should be held to decide whether the electricity company should be sold off to private investors.

SYRIZA failed in its bid to get the minimum of 120 MPs needed to back such a proposal but the opposition parties argue that even if separate requests are submitted, the MPs signatures should be aggregated. Independent Greeks wasted no time in submitting their proposal on Wednesday, doing so right after the vote was completed.

The other opposition parties, including SYRIZA, are expected to deliver their requests on Thursday. It will then be up to Parliament’s Scientific Service, a team of experts that advises House Speaker Evangelos Meimarakis, to decide whether the number of MPs backing disparate proposals can be polled together. The process is made even more complicated by the fact that SYRIZA and the Communist Party (KKE) have made it clear that they do not want the votes of Golden Dawn MPs to be added to theirs.

Leftist SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras insisted yesterday that his party wanted PPC “unified and public,” noting that electricity should remain “a right and never a luxury.”

In a speech at a conference organized by The Economist, Tsipras said the key aim of a SYRIZA-led government would be “the disengagement of Greece from the memorandums,” referring to the country’s loan agreements with international creditors, adding that he intended to relieve Greeks of the of the “punitive fixations” of the troika.

Responding to calls for SYRIZA to join the government in possible talks on debt relief in the coming months, Tsipras remarked that European Parliament elections in May, which SYRIZA won, “deprived the government of the legitimacy to bind the country in any way.”