NEWS

Premier seeks to unify party behind reforms

Prime Minister George Papandreou on Monday sought to overcome reported rifts between ministers and get his Cabinet behind the government?s midterm program, which is to be submitted in Parliament by the end of this week, as speculation mounted about the measures being put to a referendum.

The premier reportedly ruled out the prospect of early elections – which has been the subject of feverish speculation – and made it clear that the current priority was approving the program which is to go to Parliament in the form of one bill despite calls by some MPs for it to be broken down into separate articles.

According to sources, the prospect of some of the proposed reforms being put to a referendum was not ruled out by the PM.

The program – which outlines a new raft of austerity measures including tax increases and drastic cuts to public spending – is be discussed over the next two days by the party?s political council and other party organs where opposition is expected to be more vehement.

Already several MPs of socialist PASOK have said they intend to vote against the bill.

According to sources, the voices of dissent have multiplied since last Thursday when a group of PASOK deputies sent a letter to Papandreou asking for the midterm program to be thoroughly debated before being voted on in Parliament.

Greece?s international creditors are not so keen on lengthy discussions; they want the program pushed through Parliament as soon as possible so that its implementation can begin.

As Papandreou seeks to win internal support for his government?s economic program, the leader of the main conservative opposition New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, is seeking to woo European politicians in a bid to gain support for the renegotiation of Greece?s loan agreement with its creditors.

Samaras wants Greece?s memorandum to include tax reductions, not hikes, and is proposing a renegotiation along the lines of deals reached by Portugal and Ireland with their international creditors.

The ND leader is on Tuesday to meet French Prime Minister Francois Fillon in Paris before traveling to Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Smaller opposition groups were seeking alliances closer to home. The head of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), Alexis Tsipras, invited the Communist Party (KKE) to join a broader leftist coalition. There had been no response from KKE by late Monday.