No early elections, says Papaconstantinou

Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou told opposition parties on Friday to «forget about early elections» as the government comes under increasing criticism for an apparent lack of coordination.

Speaking in Parliament, Papaconstantinou reaffirmed the government’s intention, as has repeatedly been set out by Prime Minister George Papandreou, to serve a full four-year term.

«To start of with, you can forget about [early] elections,» he said in response to a question from Asterios Rondoulis, an MP representing the nationalist Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS).

«We cannot keep having this discussion every two or three months – elections will take place at the end of our four-year term, as the prime minister has already said.»

The pressure on the government was ramped up this week after disputes among ministers and a near-rebellion by PASOK MPs who objected to some aspects of the liberalization bill that was passed through Parliament on Thursday, opening up dozens of closed professions to greater competition.

The government avoided the humiliation of seeing some of its deputies vote against its own bill by amending the contentious parts of the legislation.

However, PASOK suffered the embarrassment of seeing its Deputy Interior Minister Giorgos Dolios having to apologize for a circular suggesting that homeowners who took advantage of a scheme to declare illegally altered parts of their homes should face extra municipal taxes, which was completely contrary to the wording of the law that paved the way for the program.

Dolios withdrew the circular but the damage to the government’s image had already been done as Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis appears to have been unaware of its existence, heightening suspicions that there is a severe lack of coordination within the government.

This came just a few days after the government became embroiled in a public row with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union over its privatization program.

«The people have lost all respect for you and you have become objects of derision,» the leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), Alexis Tsipras, told Papaconstantinou in Parliament.

The finance minister accused the leftist party of «cheap populism.»

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