As expected, Parliament rejected late on Thursday a proposal by conservative New Democracy for a parliamentary inquiry into whether former health ministers Panayiotis Kouroublis and Andreas Xanthos, as well as Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis, are guilty of breaches.
Ruling SYRIZA and junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) voted against the proposal, while New Democracy, extreme-right Golden Dawn and senior-ranking Democratic Alignment member Evangelos Venizelos all voted in favor.
In what was an acrimonious session, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras described the proposal as a “badly staged” attempt by main opposition New Democracy to distract attention away from the Novartis bribery scandal, over which allegations have been made about conservative politicians.
“I am wondering if I, and half my cabinet, are wasting valuable time,” Tsipras said at the beginning of his address.
ND claims that a prosecutors’ report on the scandal allegedly involving the Swiss drugs firm also raises questions about the pricing of medicines which resulted in the rise of annual pharmaceutical spending in 2015 during Kouroublis’s tenure at the Health Ministry.
For his part, ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the government majority has refused to set up an investigatory committee proposed by his party “as it has also done in the past,” even though New Democracy has sanctioned all the committees the government has proposed in the past.
Mitsotakis denounced the government’s “incompetence” on a wide range of issues, including the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the deterioration in Greek-Turkish relations. He also mockingly asked Tsipras if he was pleased with the results of the recent visit to Greece by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The three ministers in question all derided ND’s proposal. Kouroublis described it as a monumental effort to create a “political distraction.”
He said the case against him was based on an anonymous complaint, adding that Mitsotakis owes him an apology.
Xanthos echoed the same sentiment, saying that the conservatives were engaging in an “unsubstantiated, clumsy and awkward political distraction.”
For his part, Polakis said that he and members of his family have been harassed by anonymous phone calls.