After passing multi-bill in tight vote, gov't must deal with dissenting PASOK MPs
PASOK leader and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos was pondering on Thursday morning what action to take after two of his MPs failed to support articles of the multi-bill that narrowly passed through Parliament late on Wednesday.
A total of 153 out of 300 MPs approved 108 of the bill’s 109 articles, with just 152 lawmakers voting in favour of the disbanding of the municipal police force.
The government has 155 MPs (127 New Democracy and 28 PASOK) but one of the conservative lawmakers was absent from the vote due to a death in his family. However, PASOK saw two of its deputies – Apostolos Kaklamanis and Paris Koukoulopoulos – fail to fully support the government.
Kaklamanis abstained from the vote entirely, while Koukoulopoulos, who is also PASOK’s parliamentary spokesman, voted against the plan to move municipal police officers into the country’s main law enforcement authority.
In previous crucial votes, government MPs have been ousted from their parliamentary groups for not supporting bills but given the ND-PASOK coalition’s slim, five-seat majority, it is not certain Venizelos will choose this path of action. Koukoulopoulos, though, looks certain to lose his position as the Socialists’ parliamentary spokesman.
The government spent the last few days making changes to the legislation in a bid to secure the vote of all of its MPs.
The last-minute changes included the withdrawal of an amendment that would have given the 2,656 former employees of the defunct state broadcaster ERT a larger compensation package than other state company workers.
The decision met with the roaring approval of New Democracy MPs but reportedly did not please Deputy Culture Minister Pantelis Kapsis, the former newspaper editor who has been appointed to oversee the closing down of public broadcaster, ERT, and the creation of a new service.
Ta Nea newspaper reported that Kapsis was considering resigning if the extra 80 million euros was not made available to provide departing ERT employees with an improved redundancy package.
Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis introduced several changes including the exemption from a mobility scheme for civil servants of municipal police officers employed in municipalities with fewer than 5,000 residents.
The government was particularly concerned about the long-term impact of alienating the country’s 325 mayors, especially since local elections are due next year. Mayors expressed opposition to a range of reforms, particularly the fact that many local authority workers will be among the 25,000 civil servants to be placed in a job transfer scheme by the end of the year.
The government conceded some ground on Tuesday by agreeing not to move municipal police officers or school caretakers if they had postgraduate degrees.
More importantly, though, the coalition decided to withdraw a provision that would have led to mayors facing disciplinary action for not keeping within their budgets. It also backed down on the powers that an observatory set up to monitor municipal finances would have. The watchdog will not have the right to intervene in the drawing up of municipal budgets, as had previously been planned.
The multi-bill includes provisions for 25,000 civil servants to be placed in a labor scheme by the end of the year, with many of them facing the possibility of dismissal, along with another 15,000 public sector workers who are to be fired by the end of 2014.
Passing the multi-bill was part of the commitments Greece had made to the troika in order to secure more bailout loans. The Euro Working Group will discuss in a July 24 teleconference unlocking the first payment of 2.5 billion euros this month and 500 million euros in October. In addition, Greece can count on recouping 2 billion euros of central bank profits on domestic bonds, plus 1.8 billion euros from the IMF.