Bill passes, PASOK down to 153 seats

A bill containing a series of austerity measures and reforms demanded by the eurozone and International Monetary Fund so Greece could receive further loan installments was passed through Parliament on Thursday night but PASOK?s majority was reduced to just three seats after Prime Minister George Papandreou expelled MP Louka Katseli from the party.

Katseli voted in favor of all the articles of the draft law apart from Article 37, which proposed suspending collective contracts. This meant the bill was approved in its entirety by the other 153 PASOK deputies. Immediately after the count, Papandreou confirmed in writing that he was ousting his former college dorm-mate Katseli.

The former labor minister said that even as an independent, she aimed to stay loyal to PASOK. ?I was and will always be PASOK,? she said, adding that she could not support a reform that would lead to labor rights being eroded. Katseli had suggested that Article 37 would lead to the scrapping of collective contracts altogether.

Another PASOK deputy who expressed reservations about this article, Vasso Papandreou, voted for the bill but warned the government it was running out of time. ?The prime minister assured me that even if one article of this bill was not approved, we would not get the sixth loan tranche,? she said. ?This is the last time I am voting against my conscience. Political initiatives are needed? the country is falling apart.?

Several PASOK MPs suggested the Socialists would have to create a national unity government to continue the attempt to get Greece?s finances back on track. ?I firmly believe that no one-party government, with or without elections, can get the country out of the crisis,? said lawmaker Dimitris Kremastinos.

However, the parliamentary debate suggested there was little possibility of a coalition being formed. Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos accused the opposition parties of shirking their responsibility by refusing to support the policies being adopted by the government.

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