NEWS

PASOK staying put despite criticism

Any opposition parties looking to take advantage of the government?s apparent weakness are only setting themselves up for disappointment, Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou suggested on Friday as he told PASOK?s rivals to ?forget about? the prospect of early elections.

Despite the minister?s defiant statement, the fragile unity within PASOK was in clear evidence as the head of the Socialists? parliamentary group, Christos Protopappas, warned ministers to consult with lawmakers before presenting legislation to Parliament or face a rebellion.

After several days of continuous criticism of the government?s choices, Papaconstantinou hit back at detractors and made it clear that the government would see out its full four-year term.

?To start of with, you can forget about [early] elections,? he told MPs in Parliament. ?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.?

He also rejected claims that the government does not have the legitimacy needed to adopt reforms that people did not vote for in the 2009 general elections.

?Our democracy?s rules state that elections are held and the party that gains a majority governs,? he said. ?We have a majority for four years and have a clear mandate that we are fulfilling the best way we can.?

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.

Protopappas said that deputies would continue to speak out if ministers do not engage in greater consultation. ?From now on, wherever there is disagreement, we will enter into dialogue,? he said. ?This dialogue will have to result in some kind of agreement. Otherwise, it must not be taken for granted that whatever bill a minister brings to Parliament will be voted through.?

Protopappas also called for Prime Minister George Papandreou to create a crisis management team to prevent the government ending up in more embarrassing positions. So far, the only decision that has been taken is for Papaconstantinou to oversee a small cross-ministerial team that will ensure there is complete coordination on any proposed legislation that affects his department.