Political upheaval ahead of bill vote

Conservative New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras on Thursday reiterated his call for elections as upheaval mounted in the three parties of the government?s coalition ahead of a parliamentary vote on a new package of austerity measures expected on Sunday or Monday.

?Never has Greece needed elections as much as it does today,? said Samaras, whose party is the second largest in the government?s shaky coalition but is leading in opinion polls. In his speech, Samaras claimed credit for foreign creditors? backing down on pension cuts and said his party had succeeded in making a second bailout deal with the troika less onerous. ?We fought to avert more recession, more unemployment, more business closures,? he said.

Many ND cadres, however, were not satisfied on Thursday. ND deputy Yiannis Manolis resigned as party secretary for trade union issues in protest at Thursday’s deal.

In PASOK, dissent appeared to be even stronger, with fears that several MPs who are unlikely to be re-elected will vote against the new measures.

As for right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), the outlook remained unclear after leader Giorgos Karatzaferis suggested late Wednesday that he would withdraw. Sources said the LAOS leader may withdraw his one minister and three deputy ministers from the government but continue to support the coalition and encourage his 16 MPs to vote for the new measures.

A first vote on the new package of measures, the debt swap — known as PSI, for private sector involvement — and the recapitalization of banks is to be held on Sunday or Monday. A second vote — on the implementation of the new measures — is expected to be held within the two weeks of the first ballot.