The government was striving on Wednesday to nip in the bud any talk about the need for the opposition to throw its weight behind economic measures agreed with creditors, as was suggested by European officials this week.
Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that, according to the Greek Constitution, the government has the required parliamentary majority to pass the measures that will be included in the agreement to conclude the second review of its third bailout, without the need for opposition parties to agree.
“Creditors do not have a say in the Greek Constitution,” he told reporters, as the government sought to put an end to the idea for the need of wider parliamentary support – possibly of 180 votes – for the measures Greece must enforce beyond 2019.
Apart from European officials, the idea has in the past few weeks also been floated within the government and the ruling SYRIZA party.
With 153 seats in Parliament, the leftist-led coalition fears that expanding the number of votes needed to approve the deal would be problematic.
The government fears that lawmakers who feel uneasy about voting for another batch of highly unpopular measures would withhold their backing, knowing the deal would still get approved with the votes of other party deputies. This outcome would only raise questions about the government’s legitimacy as it would have passed measures with the help of the opposition and not from its own MPs.
According to reports, the International Monetary Fund has denied that it is calling for broader support for the measures while the German government appears to have backed down from the suggestions made by its Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.
Meanwhile, as the debate continued, New Democracy reiterated that it would not back further austerity, with sources suggesting that the government was inciting the discussion to get backing for its dirty work.
“We will not wash away the mistakes of the government,” prominent ND MP Costis Hatzidakis told Skai TV. ND “doesn’t pretend to have the magic eraser that will rub out everything that has been agreed with one law and in one article,” he said, using the rhetoric employed by leftist SYRIZA in its anti-austerity campaign before the elections in 2015 that brought it to power.
According to sources at ND, if the government had pushed forward with key structural reforms, there would be no debate now about the need for further tax hikes and pension cuts. ND’s priority, Hatzidakis said, was to privatize 66 percent of power grid operator ADMIE, in line with pledges to international creditors, in order to raise much-needed revenue and “tackle PPC’s liquidity problems.”