Small parties taking big steps

There were further signs yesterday that the changing political landscape in Greece is beginning to favor new, small parties that are taking advantage of the difficulties which ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy are having in dealing with the economic crisis.

As PASOK and ND continue to be hampered by internal struggles over the way they should address the dire economic situation, the new parties formed over the last few months appear to be picking up momentum.

Yesterday, Dora Bakoyannis?s centrist Democratic Alliance scored another blow against her former party, New Democracy, as a third former conservative deputy decided to cross the parliamentary floor and join the fledgling group.

Iraklio MP Eleftherios Avgenakis said that he felt ND was going in the wrong direction. ?My parliamentary seat in Iraklio does not belong to [ND leader] Antonis Samaras, it belongs to the people of Iraklio,? he declared, adding that the majority of his constituents had asked him in the last few weeks to change parties.

?His participation will strengthen our efforts to create a plan for the drastic reforms that the country needs,? said Bakoyannis.

Avgenakis had been ousted from ND last November when he publicly approved some of Bakoyannis?s positions. Another conservative deputy cast out by Samaras on the same day, Giorgos Kontoyiannis, is also expected to join Democratic Alliance in the next few days.

This would take the number its MPs up to five. However, the deputies will continue to be classified as independents unless the newly formed party can increase its lawmakers to 10, in which case Parliament?s rules allow the creation of a parliamentary group. This, in turn, leads to the party being given a parliamentary office.

Samaras is soon expected to announce a reshuffle of his shadow cabinet as ND attempts to make an impression on the electorate.

PASOK could soon be feeling a similar thorn in its side as several of its ousted MPs are set to begin the process of forming a new party. They will be led by Yiannis Dimaras, who challenged for the Attica governor?s post and got some 250,000 votes in the November local elections. It is likely that he will be joined by another ex-PASOK MP, Vassilis Economou, as well as the third Socialist deputy who was ousted for voting against the EU-IMF memorandum, Sofia Sakorafa.