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Greek Parliament passes multi-bill but coalition sees majority cut further

The omnibus bill containing liberalization measures and other reforms that Greece needed to pass to receive its next bailout tranche squeezed through Parliament at just after midnight on Sunday but the vote led to the governmentís majority dwindling further.

The first article was supported by 152 votes in the 300-seat Parliament and the second article, which contained the rules governing Greeceís new bank framework, received just 151.

New Democracy MP Nikitas Kaklamanis, who did not back one of the articles, was immediately expelled from his partyís parliamentary group by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

There was no immediate reaction from PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos to the fact that veteran lawmaker Apostolos Kaklamanis and former Socialist chief and premier George Papandreou did not give their full support. Papandreou voting against the banking regulations, which set out rules for capital increase at banks that have been recaptilized with taxpayersí money.

The government had been concerned about a rebellion from some of its own MPs but appears to have appeased them by making a last minute change to its provision for the shelf-life of pasteurized milk, which was reduced to seven days from the proposed nine. Until now, it had been five days.

Nevertheless, Sunday turned out to be a tension-filled day as SYRIZA failed in its attempt to have the vote on the multi-bill delayed, leading to the leftists walking out and only returning for the midnight vote.

Parliamentary speaker Evangelos Meimarakis that the main opposition party's motion of no-confidence in Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras was inadmissible, ensuring that debate on the multi-bill could continue.

Under parliamentary rules, debate on the motion would have taken precedence over any other item on the agenda. This would have meant that the debate on the multi-bill would have stopped and the vote on the package of liberalization measures demanded by the troika for the release of more bailout funding would not have taken place until midnight on Tuesday.

This would have caused a considerable problem for the government as it was hoping that eurozone finance ministers meeting in Athens on Tuesday would approve the next loan disbursement. The voting through of the bill, however, was considered a prerequisite for the Eurogroup to give the green light.

SYRIZA accused the government of trying to ram through, using an emergency debate procedure, a bill running into hundreds of pages without proper debate and adding clauses that would favor banks and certain businessmen.

Meimarakis based his ruling on Greece's constitution, which says six months must elapse between two motions of no-confidence in the government. He said SYRIZA's motion against a minister implementing the government's policy amounts to one against the government since it does not touch on the minister's personal conduct.

Following the speaker's ruling, SYRIZA's lawmakers left the debate and its leader, Alexis Tsipras, tabled a motion of no-confidence in the speaker. Debate on that motion does not take precedence over the current debate on the bill and will take place on Monday.

Samaras accused SYRIZA of "undermining the country's credibility" and "fanatically opposing" Greeks' interests.

SYRIZA's motion against the finance minister was backed by most opposition parties except for Democratic Left, which spent a year in government with the conservative New Democracy and the socialist PASOK parties before leaving last summer over policy differences.

The last hour of the debate was dominated by complaints from opposition parties about the government inserting numerous last minute amendments into the multi-bill. Under pressure from the opposition, Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis agreed to withdraw one such amendment concerning the overhaul of two public hospitals.

[Kathimerini & Associated Press]

ekathimerini.com , Monday March 31, 2014 (00:36)  
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