NEWS

Government looking to turn focus to loan tranche

A vote on the 2013 national budget is expected to be won comfortably by the government on Sunday night, allowing the coalition to regroup after a much tighter ballot on the latest austerity package earlier in the week and to focus on securing the disbursement of Greece’s next bailout tranche.

Having only passed the structural and fiscal measures on Wednesday with 153 of 300 votes, the three-party administration is due to enjoy a less stressful night on Sunday. Following the ousting of eight rebel MPs from New Democracy and PASOK in the wake of Wednesday?s vote on the austerity package, the conservatives were left with 126 MPs and the Socialists with 26.

Democratic Left saw two of its 16 MPs reject the measures, leaving it with only 14 lawmakers to count on for the budget vote.

So, 166 MPs are expected to vote for the budget. Former minister Costas Skandalidis, ejected from PASOK for being absent during Wednesday?s vote, said he would back the budget.

The debate ahead of the midnight ballot is proving tense, just as the discussion before Wednesday?s vote had been. Comments by SYRIZA MP Stathis Panagoulis on Saturday drew heavy criticism after he suggested that coalition members might be lynched and killed in the same way that US Ambassador Chris Stevens had been in Benghazi, Libya, in September.

?Those of you who signed the [EU-IMF] memorandums should be praying that you are tried in a special court… rather than meeting the same end as the US ambassador in Libya a few months ago,? said the leftist deputy.

Communist Party deputy Liana Kanelli labeled the content of the budget ?genocidal.?

Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras stressed that Greece had made significant fiscal progress. He said preliminary budget data for October showed a 900-million-euro primary surplus and that the public deficit had been reduced by 41.7 percent since last year, to 12.3 billion euros. Staikouras said the signs were ?encouraging but no cause for celebration.?

The government will be looking for further encouragement from Monday?s Eurogroup meeting. It is already clear there will be no final decision on the next loan installment, which could come at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on November 22, but the coalition hopes there will be a strong message of support for Greece at the end of Monday?s meeting.