Splits in Cabinet and among PASOK’s deputies

Prime Minister George Papandreou hit out at the government?s critics on Thursday as the cracks in PASOK?s unity grew, with Socialist MPs threatening to vote down a liberalization bill.

Papandreou accused opposition parties and the media of continuously undermining the government?s efforts to stabilize the economy and improve public finances, and of generating fear among Greeks that the country would not meet the targets it has been set.

?These are the same people who, despite failing in all their previous predictions, continue their easy and destructive criticism,? said the premier. ?They continue to cultivate fear and misery, using it as their main political tool.?

Papandreou was speaking after a stormy Cabinet meeting, during which several ministers objected to some of the provisions in Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou?s tax law.

It appears that the divisions are being stoked by concern that after carrying out the reforms necessary to slash public spending, the government is finding it difficult to put into effect changes that will start having an impact on how Greece operates.

Papandreou suggested at the Cabinet meeting that a small cross-ministerial team be created to coordinate legislation.

However, his suggestion came too late to prevent a near-rebellion from PASOK MPs in Parliament. A large group of Socialist lawmakers was angered by some of the content of a bill that liberalizes the legal profession. They were opposed to an article that allowed legal firms to open branches in other cities apart from the one they are based in. The disaffected deputies let it be known that they would vote against the legislation unless this clause was removed.

The government duly complied but it was clear that there is great unrest within the ruling party, as exemplified by the stance taken by Apostolos Kaklamanis, a former parliamentary speaker, and one of PASOK?s longest-serving MPs, who hit out at the inability of his party and New Democracy to cooperate on some issues.

?If this situation continues, then we have to go to the people,? he said. ?Let?s see if they want our government, another one, or whether they want us to all work together.?

The prospect of calling snap elections is something Papandreou and his government have consistently rejected.

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