Coalition squeezes through votes on property tax, foreclosures

The coalition survived two crucial votes in Parliament on Sunday, with MPs passing a unified property tax and approving a partial lifting of restrictions on home foreclosures, but this came at a price as a New Democracy lawmaker was ousted from his parliamentary group for failing to back the legislation, thereby further eroding the government’s majority.

The property tax bill only received the support of 152 lawmakers as New Democracy deputy Vyron Polydoras voted against it and another MP, PASOK’s Apostolos Kaklamanis, did not take part in the ballot. The latter reportedly missed the vote because of illness.

There was relief within the government that the property tax, crucial to the coalition’s fiscal plans as it seeks to raise more than 2.5 billion euros next year, passed through Parliament. This was tempered by the fact that the coalition’s majority has been reduced to just three seats.

Polydoras’s ousting brings the coalition down to 153 lawmakers in the 300-seat Parliament. New Democracy has 126 deputies and PASOK 27.

The former public order minister had made it clear on Friday that he would not support the bill but his negative vote on Friday drew sharp criticism from New Democracy.

“At a time when the government is successfully trying to get Greece out of the economic crisis, Mr Polydoras has consciously chosen to oppose these efforts and his party and to identify with the anti-Europeans, the populists, the supporters of the drachma and those who deny the national effort to save the country,” the conservative party said in a statement.

It was with this reduced majority (152 out of 293 lawmakers that voted in total) that the government also saw the new framework on home foreclosures pass through Parliament on Saturday evening.

Rather than providing a blanket ban on the repossession of homes with a taxable value of up to 200,000 euros if owners fail to keep up with mortgage payments, the new law introduces certain criteria based on household income. It also sets the maximum amount homeowners should pay to banks each month if they are in financial difficulties.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis had to make some last-minute adjustments to the legislation to ensure the support of government MPs after earlier complaints.

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