PM blocks amendments

Alarmed by the number of last-minute amendments political parties are trying to squeeze through Parliament ahead of the elections, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Monday forced a minister to withdraw one such change to legislation and has asked all members of the Cabinet to clear any alterations to bills with his office.

Sources said that Papademos intervened to prevent an amendment to a draft law on the liberalization of the road haulage sector. It appears that the change to the legislation would have left some greater restrictions in place for those owning licenses to drive tankers, compared to other trucks. Greece has been trying to open up its road haulage sector since 2010 but has often come up against strong resistance from truck owners.

Transport Minister Makis Voridis denied the amendment was intended to favor some owners over others. He said it only related to those holding old permits and did not place any restrictions on new licenses. ?The aim of the amendment was to encourage the issuing of new licenses,? insisted Voridis, who accepted that objections from PASOK meant that he would have withdrawn the amendment.

Alternate Defense Minister Yiannis Ragousis, who held Voridis?s position in the past, accused New Democracy of trying to curry favor with voters and party supporters ahead of the parliamentary elections, which are expected to take place on May 6.

PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos held an informal meeting with party officials on Monday to agree that no Socialist cabinet members would submit any amendments that were not required by the terms of Greece?s new bailout or did not have the Cabinet?s approval.

Sources told Kathimerini that Papademos and his advisers have been left aghast by the efforts of members of both PASOK and New Democracy to slip last-minute amendments through Parliament. This led to Papademos informing his ministers in writing on Friday that they would need to clear any such changes with his office. This task has been assigned to State Minister Giorgos Stavropoulos. As of yesterday, Stavropoulos had 86 amendments to examine.

Government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said the date of the elections would be announced during Orthodox Holy Week, between April 9 and 15, which suggests that Greece will go to the polls on May 6. PASOK is set to ask for four televised debates to be held before the elections, two involving just Venizelos and ND leader Antonis Samaras and two in which all party leaders would participate.