Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his key ministers have their work cut out for them ahead of a vote in Parliament on a contentious multi-bill on Monday which was the focus of vehement debate in the House on Friday, as well as angry demonstrators who clashed with police in central Athens.
Most of the sharp exchanges between ministers and opposition MPs in Parliament were prompted by two key aspects of the legislation: a provision obliging unions to gather a larger number of votes in order to calls strikes and cuts to welfare benefits for large families.
The fact that ministers themselves did not appear to have a common line in their arguments provoked criticism from the political opposition.
Echoing government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos noted that the change to the strike legislation was not the choice of leftist SYRIZA and effectively was imposed by the country’s international creditors.
Labor Minister Effie Achtsioglou struck a different tone, however, defending the reform which, she said, would boost and unify unions.
Prominent KKE MP Aleka Papariga, the former leader of the Communist Party, remarked that “SYRIZA didn’t have leftist DNA even when it was at 4 percent,” referring to the level at which the party was polling at the outset of the crisis.
Another incident that provoked a small media storm was the leaking of a letter written by SYRIZA MP Georgia Gennia to Tsipras in which she expressed concern about the cuts to benefits and described as “justified” the concern and discontent of families who will be affected.
After the leak, however, Gennia clarified in a statement that the letter had been part of the “internal” debate ahead of Monday’s vote and that she had no intention to defect from the government’s line.
In any case, the upheaval both in and outside Parliament on Friday rattled senior government officials who are expected to spend the next few days rallying MPs to ensure they support the multi-bill in Monday’s vote.
The government’s aim is to approve the measures and secure the release of additional rescue loans at a summit of eurozone finance ministers on January 22 where, it is hoped, officials will also give the go-ahead for debt relief.
It is unclear whether approval of the multi-bill alone will be enough, however.
After perusing a 600-page translation of the legislation, representatives of Greece’s creditors have deemed that another 50 prior actions remain unaccounted for and must also be enforced over the coming days.
Greece has been given until Wednesday to adopt those prior actions, with European officials likely to take stock at the end of next week.