NEWS

Papandreou to opt for tougher line with critics

Despite considerable disquiet within the ruling party, PASOK was expected to survive last night's vote on the 2011 national budget but the ballot is likely to signal the start of a period when the government is going to get much tougher on dissenting voices, with sources close to Prime Minister George Papandreou suggesting that even snap elections are not out of the question. The government had to endure another day of public criticism yesterday as opposition deputies and some its own lawmakers took potshots at the budget and the economic policy being followed by PASOK during the final hours of the Parliamentary debate. PASOK has seen its majority in the House decrease from 10 to six this year after four MPs were ejected from the party for voting against government bills. None of the Socialist deputies had declared they would vote against the budget yesterday but a number of MPs have been blunt in their criticism of the government. PASOK lawmaker Thomas Rompopoulos said that he would quit the party if he felt that the government was not allowing Parliament to debate reforms properly. «I was a businessman for 32 years, I have only been an MP for one but you cannot present the budget and simply say, «That's it, vote for it,» or submit bills designated as emergency legislation so they are voted on without discussion,» he said. «We need discussion, we need productive discussion.» The mood among the prime minister's team, however, seems to indicate that Papandreou and his aides have had enough of the rebellious tendencies within PASOK as well as criticism from opposition parties and are determined to stick to their course. «The prime minister, the government and the parliamentary group choose to clash head-on with those that are irresponsible and display unbearable tendencies for populism,» said Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis, one of Papandreou's closest aides. In what appears to be a comment that singles out PASOK rebels and unionists, Ragousis went on to tell journalists that the prime minister is ready to take on «PASOK's deep past.» Sources close to Papandreou told Kathimerini that the premier would rather call early elections than have to give up the process of carrying out structural reforms and sticking to the agreement Greece has made with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras is expected to reshuffle his frontline team over the next few days in order to be prepared for a possible snap poll, which some commentators believe may be called in the spring.

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