Bumpy road to reform

Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s proposals to have his PASOK MPs’ finances scrutinized and to change the electoral law ran into trouble yesterday when Parliament Speaker and PASOK MP Apostolos Kaklamanis expressed disagreement. The government is hoping these two issues – transparency and electoral reform – will keep the conservative New Democracy party on the defensive. Today, ND leader Costas Karamanlis will bring to Parliament his proposal for a law forcing all MPs, the heads of state corporations and other public functionaries to open their finances to scrutiny – a proposal he made after Simitis said PASOK MPs would do so willingly and ND’s should do the same. Kaklamanis, who is known to be opposed to the talk about MPs trading accounts on the bourse being opened to scrutiny, did not take a stand on this in public yesterday. But in an interview with Ta Nea newspaper, he repeated his proposal for the State to confiscate all assets which were not declared in politicians’ annual declaration of assets. Kaklamanis proposed that every declaration should hold that MPs allow any hidden assets to go to the State automatically, that the State should be authorized to seek out such hidden assets, that cash rewards should be offered for information on this and that secret hearings should be held and the assets returned when such cases arise. Many deputies are already upset at the way in which the issue is being handled, which makes them appear guilty of corruption until proven innocent, and this is likely to be expressed when the parliamentary committee responsible for handling their declarations of assets meets today to discuss what to do. But, in light also of tonight’s meeting of PASOK’s Executive Bureau, Kaklamanis’s objections to basic parts of the proposed new electoral law take on greater significance. He, along with some senior ministers and a big majority of PASOK MPs, disagrees with the party leader’s ability to name some candidates for Parliament and put them on a list (where they will be elected based on the party’s percentage as opposed to voters’ ballots) and the provision allowing voters to vote for a party in one ballot and a candidate, who may be from another party, in the other. «It is clear that this idea will undermine both the democratic functioning of the party and its cohesion and the clarity of each party’s ideological and political position,» Kaklamanis told Ta Nea.

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