PASOK, ND ponder how to ensure MPs’ suppor for deal

PASOK leader George Papandreou suggested on Wednesday holding a secret ballot to gauge his MPs? support for the measures in the draft agreement between Greece and its lenders, indicating the concern that some deputies might not vote it through Parliament.

Papandreou floated the idea during talks with party officials ahead of a meeting with party leaders and Prime Minister Lucas Papademos. The proposal to hold the ballot ahead of the vote in Parliament, which is set to take place on Sunday, was rejected by Papandreou?s advisers.

If agreed, the loan deal is due to be submitted as a single amendment initially. The coalition has 258 MPs in the 300-seat Parliament, which should guarantee the deal passes through the House. However, the implementation laws for the reforms will be submitted to Parliament separately at a later date, which could provide more fertile ground for opposition to the measures.

Three PASOK MPs have already stated they will not approve the measures. Among them is Stathis Koutmeridis, who claimed that lawmakers were being put in an impossible position. ?Those who present us with the dilemma of national humiliation or bankruptcy should know that we will not accept national humiliation,? he said.

Athens deputy Nasos Alevras responded to Koutmeridis by saying, ?Those who pose dilemmas simply create an artificial construct so they are not obliged to answer the real problem, which is the need for structural reforms.?

A group of PASOK MPs has launched an effort to collect signatures from lawmakers within the center-left party and New Democracy in a bid to extend the tenure of Papademos as interim premier.

There are also some within the ND camp that would prefer the interim government to remain in power for longer but several key advisers to conservative leader Antonis Samaras urged him to demand elections as soon as possible, even in the first half of March.

Samaras also faces a challenge in convincing the majority of his MPs to back the agreement. An ND source said that seven in 10 deputies that had spoken to the party chief had expressed opposition to the measures.