MPs sworn in, various differences to be settled

The deputies voted to Parliament in the June 17 elections were sworn in on Thursday during a straightforward ceremony, but Friday?s session is likely to prove more contentious as the lawmakers have to elect a speaker.

New Democracy has proposed that former Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis be elected speaker of the House but leftist SYRIZA and right-wing Independent Greeks are thought to oppose the nomination, which needs 151 of 300 votes to pass. Some members of the ND-PASOK-Democratic Left coalition, which has a total of 179 seats, may also vote against Meimarakis, prompting further nominations and votes and some embarrassment for Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

Another testing moment for the coalition will come when Parliament has to decide whether to approve the neofascist Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) party?s choice for deputy speaker. Under House rules, each of the seven parties in Parliament is allowed to have a deputy speaker. However, this is not a constitutional right and any candidate requires the approval of at least 75 MPs. Golden Dawn only has 18 MPs and would require the support of others for its candidate to be elected.

Once elected, the new speaker will have to settle a dispute between SYRIZA and the Communist Party (KKE) over seating arrangements. KKE wants to sit in the same place it has been since 1974, which is in the front left rows of the debating chamber. But SYRIZA believes that as the main opposition party, its deputies should be seated in the front rows.

Samaras is due to present the government?s policy program on Wednesday or Thursday next week but will first have to get the all-clear from his doctors. Samaras, who underwent an operation to a damaged retina on Saturday, is due to be examined on Sunday.

Sources told Kathimerini that privatizations are going to form a key part of the plan Samaras will present. The prime minister wants to send a message that his government is determined to meet, and if possible exceed, the sell-off revenue targets agreed with Greece?s lenders. The privatization of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) and subsidiaries of ATEbank will be priorities.

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