Parties vote for funding boost

Parliament narrowly voted Monday to grant the main political parties a 29-million-euro cash injection ahead of elections but the issue caused a significant rift in PASOK.

A total of 155 of 300 MPs voted in favor, 56 voted against, three voted present and 86 were absent. The amendment will lead to PASOK, New Democracy, the Communist Party (KKE), Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) receiving an overdue installment of state funding from 2011 and two tranches from this year in one go.

Interior Minister Tassos Yiannitsis said he hoped the parties would use the money to pay unpaid staff and bills, revealing in the process that they also owe large amounts to Greece?s main social security fund, IKA.

?Apart from the elections, there are also rents and salaries that have not been paid for months, as well as other significant debts, such as to IKA, which I would like to believe will be paid straight away by the parties,? he said.

The amendment was opposed by LAOS and SYRIZA as well as the smaller parties which have emerged since the last elections: Democratic Left, Democratic Alliance and Independent Greeks. KKE lawmakers voted ?present.?

Three PASOK MPs, including former Deputy Labor Minister Anna Dalara opposed the measure. ?I voted against because I think it is self-evident that given the unprecedented economic crisis the country is experiencing, the parties should be asking for their funding to be reduced drastically,? she said.

Alternate Defense Minister Yiannis Ragousis of PASOK abstained from the vote and tendered his resignation. The move angered PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, who held a meeting with Ragousis to express his displeasure. Sources said that Venizelos was considering the option of excluding Ragousis from the candidate list.

Venizelos is said to have pointed out to Ragousis that PASOK owes 115 million euros and that the minister, who was a close associate of former leader George Papandreou, had a leading role in the party over the last few years.

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras was not present at the vote either. Party sources pointed out that although ND also owes more than 100 million euros, it has been producing a primary surplus for the last two years.

In an interview with Mega TV, Samaras said if his party is first in the elections, he has a democratic right to be prime minister. He rejected the idea of appointing another, more politically neutral figure as premier in a coalition government.