23 PASOK MPs object to scrutiny

Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s attempt to keep the opposition New Democracy party on the defensive by challenging it to match PASOK’s display of self-scrutiny and to accept changes in the electoral law suffered a new setback yesterday when at least 23 PASOK MPs issued a statement opposing Simitis’s call for them to reveal their stock trading accounts. But at the same time, the ruling party managed to quash an ND proposal for an amendment to be passed demanding that state functionaries and the heads of public-sector companies also be obliged to open their accounts to scrutiny. Out of 96 MPs present, PASOK’s 52 voted against while all 44 from opposition parties were in favor. Earlier in the week, Simitis said that he was open to compromise on his electoral law reforms, after two proposals came under fire from PASOK members. These involve the naming of candidates for Parliament according to lists drawn up by the party leader for certain constituencies (rather than by voters selecting their own candidate) and for double ballots, in which voters will be able to vote for a party in one and a candidate (who might be from another party) in the other. The 23 PASOK MPs signed a letter addressed to Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis in which they basically agreed with the amendment that ND had proposed and which they had voted down a little earlier. They called for all those who wield power and handle public money to undergo the same scrutiny as that proposed for MPs. «We support every effort which aims at transparency in public life and we believe that substantial checks must be conducted on the doings and economic dealings of all who have held public positions in the past years. Parliament must institute the necessary legal framework immediately,» the 23 wrote. They felt the need to justify their earlier vote, saying, «We do not support ND’s amendments because we believe that they have great demagogic elements, serious legislative flaws and aim at petty political exploitation.» The rebellious PASOK MPs said that they felt insulted by Simitis’s call for the mandatory opening of their trading accounts. «This summons, aside from the fact that many of us did not take part in any such dealings, insults us, because it questions the credibility of our statements regarding our assets and their sources. In any case, the law and the competent organs are empowered to check the accuracy of our statements. Let them exert their authority and should anything need to be clarified, then the specific persons must be called on to do so. We believe that political responsibility should not be exhausted, in a misleading way, by scrutinizing MPs,» they wrote. Government spokesman Christos Protopappas said Simitis’s statements on the issue were valid and MPs would hand over declarations to the secretary of PASOK’s parliamentary caucus. PASOK MP Sifis Valyrakis, accusing Simitis of acting autocratically, called for an immediate meeting of MPs to discuss what he called «the slackening of democratic functioning and the inability of MPs to take part in important political decisions.»