NEWS

Parties in last-ditch talks

With one of the most difficult weeks for his fragile government looming, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Friday spoke several times with his coalition partners in a bid to overcome their objections to a tough package of austerity measures and reforms that will be put to a vote in Parliament on Wednesday.

According to sources, Samaras spoke by telephone with socialist PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis while sources did not rule out the possibility of a new meeting between the three men over the weekend.

Coalition leaders are also attempting to rally their own MPs ahead of next week?s voting with Samaras set to convene the members of his parliamentary group at 1 p.m. on Sunday and Kouvelis to gather with his MPs at 6 p.m. on Monday. Venizelos is to meet in coming days with a handful of MPs from his party who have indicated that they might vote against the measures, starting with PASOK veteran Costas Skandalidis.

MPs of the main leftist opposition SYRIZA are also to meet on Sunday to discuss the shifting political situation as well as an internal rift that has opened up following a statement by lawmaker Panayiotis Lafazanis that the party is not ready to govern.

Government officials sought to appear positive ahead of Wednesday?s vote with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras saying he was ?reasonably confident? the bill would pass despite resistance from the junior partner in the coalition.

Democratic Left is expected to vote ?present? to express its opposition to the labor reforms but to vote in favor of the budget when it comes to Parliament next Sunday, November 11.

The budget sets out some 9.2 billion euros in austerity measures for 2013, including fresh cuts to pensions over 1,000 euros per month. In a last-minute change, the Labor Ministry decided that pensions would be reduced by between 5 and 15 percent depending on the size of the retirement pay rather than up to 25 percent, as had been originally planned.