PASOK embroiled in row with ND and SYRIZA

Two days after Greece secured some respite with the approval by its international creditors of a crucial fifth tranche of emergency funding, the government found itself caught in the political crossfire on Monday as the main conservative opposition New Democracy party accused it of ?misleading? MPs about a crucial austerity vote last week and a series of attacks on MPs of ruling PASOK boosted tensions between the Socialists and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which is being blamed for the assaults.

ND focused its criticism at Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, whom it accused of trying to ?dupe? the conservatives into a political consensus they are unwilling to give.

ND has consistently rebuffed overtures by the government for a consensus on austerity measures that Greece?s creditors have said is crucial to guarantee the implementation of the measures. Yesterday, ND press spokesman Yiannis Michelakis accused Venizelos of an ?unprecedented attempt to mislead Parliament,? claiming that he was planning to impose additional austerity measures – beyond those outlined in the government?s midterm fiscal plan – including the firing of civil servants deemed superfluous after a year on reduced wages as backup staff.

Venizelos rebuffed the claims yesterday, noting in a written statement that ?the memorandum does not contain anything which has not already been analytically presented in Parliament during the debate and approval of the midterm program for fiscal reform and its implementation law.? Responding to a report in the daily Eleftherotypia, which claimed that a barrage of new measures were in store based on an updated memorandum agreed with Greece?s creditors, Venizelos accused the media of ?recycling information.?

?The constant recycling of known information which is presented as news creates a sense of uncertainty which immobilizes the country?s creative forces,? he said.

The government also had to tackle a fresh clash with SYRIZA yesterday following attacks against PASOK cadres. PASOK?s secretary Michalis Karchimakis blamed SYRIZA for the assaults and described party leader Alexis Tsipras as the ?chief troublemaker.? SYRIZA reacted by accusing the ruling Socialists of ?Goebbels-style tactics.?

Yesterday, PASOK deputy Soula Merentiti was escorted from a television studio in Trikala, central Greece, after protesters burst in and made threats against her for voting for the government?s austerity measures.

Later, Deputy Labor Minister Yiannis Koutsoukos was harrassed in Rio, near Patra, for the same reason. In a related development, PASOK deputy Alexandros Athanasiadis said he received death threats ahead of the vote. On Saturday, an angry crowd mobbed Nikos Tsonis, another PASOK MP, in the central city of Lamia, after he voted for the program.