Multi-bill fuels tense debate before crucial vote

A debate in Parliament on Thursday on a multi-bill bundling together a range of economic reforms promised to the country’s foreign creditors, including a much-delayed streamlining of the civil service and a new tax code, got off to a tense start amid protests by opposition deputies but also lawmakers of the governing coalition.

The debate, which started at the committee level on Thursday, is to continue until Wednesday night when a vote is expected on the multi-bill, which contains more than 100 provisions. Most of PASOK’s 28 deputies are expected to back the bill despite objections to some of its articles, chiefly those relating to a mobility scheme that would see thousands of civil servants put on reduced pay ahead of their transfer to another position or their dismissal.

Rallying New Democracy’s 127 lawmakers is expected to be tougher. The leaders of both camps are to step up their efforts over the coming days to impose the party line and limit possible defections in the vote, which must be successful if Athens to secure additional crucial rescue funding.

One ND deputy, former Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, said she would support the bill “with an extremely heavy heart because I know the government is up against a wall and that we are a country being subjected to blackmail.”

The most vehement objections in Thursday’s debate came from the opposition with leftist SYRIZA lawmaker Panagiotis Lafazanis complaining that deputies were not being given enough time to debate the legislation, which he called “a monstrosity.”

In a related development, Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis withdrew a provision in the multi-bill that had foreseen priority treatment of civil servants who have served in the offices of ministers or general secretaries following protests by MPs and unionists.

Next week will be a busy one in Parliament as, apart from the vote on the multi-bill, SYRIZA is expected to table a proposal on Thursday for the creation of a committee to probe the decision to close the state broadcaster ERT last month. Then on Friday, a bill foreseeing the creation of a new state broadcaster, to be known as NERIT, is to go to a vote.

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