NEWS

PASOK’s majority slips as MPs resist measures

An extremely tense few days await the government after two PASOK MPs made it clear on Tuesday that they would vote against the medium-term fiscal plan, thereby reducing the ruling party?s majority to just four seats.

Government sources attempted to brush off the desertions by suggesting that no more deputies would reject the new round of austerity measures, which Greece will have to adopt if it is to receive a second bailout, thought to be around 100 billion euros, from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

However, there is a great deal of anxiety within PASOK, which has been wracked by internal disputes in recent weeks, after the two MPs declared their opposition to the measures, with one announcing he was quitting the party.

Giorgos Lianis, a deputy for Florina in northern Greece, said he was stepping down in a letter to Prime Minister George Papandreou. ?We failed and now we are trying to hide the truth from the people,? said Lianis. ?I can longer carry the burdens you have placed on us. Our economic policy has failed and we are putting achievements of the last 25 years under the hammer.?

The government had 156 of the 300 seats in Parliament, having already lost four MPs since it came to power in November 2009. Lianis, a former deputy culture and sports minister and a PASOK deputy since 1989, said he would not give up his seat, which would allow PASOK to replace him with another candidate.

A second Socialist deputy, Alexandros Athanasiadis, said he would also vote against the midterm plan but gave no indication of wanting to leave the party. ?I am ready to assume my responsibilities,? said Athanasiadis, who did not comment on whether there are other lawmakers considering voting against the latest batch of austerity measures.

Without Athanasiadis, who represents the Kozani constituency in northern Greece, the government?s majority would drop to four, putting more pressure on Papandreou. Government sources, however, said they were confident that other waverers in PASOK?s parliamentary group, such as Chryssa Arapoglou and Yiannis Amoiridis, would be dissuaded from voting against the midterm fiscal plan.

A parliamentary committee is due to begin reviewing the bill on Wednesday before a vote either at the end of the month or at the beginning of July.