NEWS

PASOK rifts persist ahead of key vote

As the government braced for a crucial vote on a controversial new property tax in Parliament Tuesday, there was no indication Monday that any cadres of the ruling Socialist party would vote down the measure though the rifts within PASOK were clear.

The few PASOK MPs who had suggested they might stand down to protest the tax had not given up their seats by late last night. But there was clearly discord within the party. Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis presented statistics showing that costs for public transport companies have overshot the national budget by 30 percent — a clear dig at his predecessor Dimitris Reppas, now administrative reform minister, who had accused Ragousis of failing to do the necessary groundwork for the creation of a new pay structure for civil servants when he had been interior minister.

The clash prompted the intervention of Citizens? Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis, who advised against ?displays of excessive irresponsibility.?

Meanwhile, in defiance of Prime Minister George?s Papandreou?s calls for cadres to avoid speculating about early elections, several MPs commented on the prospect in radio interviews Monday.

In a related development, it emerged that the process of compiling lists of surplus staff at dozens of state bodies has hit a snag. Officials at most of the 151 bodies reportedly claimed to be unable to identify surplus staff or demanded additional evaluation criteria, sources said. The bodies have been asked to put 10 percent of their employees on a ?surplus list.? These employees would join a labor standby scheme, taking heavily docked wages for 12 months before their status is re-evaluated.