NEWS

Coalition strains as votes on measures, budget loom

Greece?s coalition faces an extremely tense few days ahead of two decisive votes in Parliament next week after rising dissent in PASOK threatened to leave the three-party government without the necessary support to pass the austerity and reform measures demanded by the country?s lenders.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is due to meet with his 127 deputies on Monday, ahead of the vote on structural reforms on Wednesday and the ballot on the 2013 national budget, which will be held at midnight on Sunday, November 11.

He will do so unsure of whether his coalition government will go into those votes with enough lawmakers to pass the legislation. Samaras and his aides were highly concerned by the crumbling support for the government?s privatization bill during a ballot on Wednesday. Only 148 of almost 180 coalition deputies backed the legislation paving the way for the sell-off of public utilities. The bill only passed because not all 300 MPs voted.

Democratic Left, which did not back the bill, has said it will oppose the reforms unless the changes to labor regulations proposed by the troika are withdrawn. PASOK, meanwhile, lost one lawmaker on Friday and up to six others have threatened to reject the measures.

This could leave the government with as few as 153 votes in next week?s votes, provided no New Democracy deputies oppose the package.

Eurozone finance ministers are due to meet on November 12 and could decide on whether to release more funding for Greece.

The main opposition party, SYRIZA, experienced its own turmoil yesterday after parliamentary spokesman Panayiotis Lafazanis suggested the leftists were not in a position to form the next government. ?We are not ready to govern,? he told ANT1 TV. ?I refuse to fool people.?

The statement prompted party supporters to ring SYRIZA headquarters to complain and elicited an immediate response from leader Alexis Tsipras. ?We are ready to avert disaster,? he said. ?We are ready to take on the responsibility of rebuilding the country.?

Lafazanis then said his comment had been misinterpreted, adding that SYRIZA was better prepared to govern than any other opposition party had been.