NEWS

PM struggles for consensus on reforms

Prime Minister George Papandreou on Tuesday met with his political rivals in a bid to drum up some support for the government’s midterm fiscal program, which is aimed at getting the economy back on track, but there seemed to be little support forthcoming.

After his talks with the premier, the leader of the main conservative opposition New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, once again expressed his opposition to the proposed reforms. ?What is needed is a creative shock [to the economy] through the reduction of taxes. We say yes to privatizations but no to measures of fiscal panic,» he said. ?When the sum total is a mistake, a few positives do not offer a solution,? he added. Earlier this month, Samaras presented his own alternative program which reduces taxes but proposes bold moves on privatization including the selloff of the Public Power Corporation – a move the government has been postponing due to fierce opposition by labor unions.

The response from the leaders of smaller parties was even less encouraging.

Only the leader of the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Giorgos Karatzaferis, struck a vaguely positive note. «No to indefinite consensus, yes to joint responsibility,» he said, noting that all political parties should join in the effort to save the Greek economy.

Leftwing parties gave a cold response. The head of the Communist Party (KKE), Aleka Papariga, refused to meet the premier, saying their views were «diametrically opposed» while the leader of the leftist Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, said the reforms were «criminal» and called for early general elections.

Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis commented that ruling PASOK was only interested in ?proposals that will reduce the deficit.? He added that the first wave of privatizations would be carried out ?soon.?

The country?s creditors have been pressing the government to seek consensus for the deeply unpopular reforms before presenting them in Parliament. The government has a comfortable majority in Parliament and should be able to pass the reforms without the support of the opposition. But securing a degree of political consensus would ease the implementation of these reforms once they are approved, according to officials of the EU and IMF.