Political tensions peak ahead of vote on Novartis affair

Political tensions peak ahead of vote on Novartis affair

Political tensions have peaked as MPs prepare for a vote in Parliament on Wednesday on whether to establish a parliamentary committee to probe the alleged bribery of 10 Greek politicians by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis. 

A debate on the matter is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday with voting expected late at night. 

Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis has proposed that 10 separate ballots be held, one for each politician alleged to be involved in the scandal and the offenses they are accused of.

The suggestion has been rejected by the conservative opposition New Democracy and others who argue that the government is trying to put on a show to distract public opinion from the slow-moving negotiations on the Macedonia name issue and a spike in tensions in the Aegean.

Despite the objections, however, it is likely that 10 votes will be held, and it is possible that ND will boycott them.

If Parliament approves the proposal that politicians be probed, it is considered likely that an investigation will last a few weeks, with witnesses summoned to testify in connection with each politician.

Then, once the committee presents its findings, either another vote will be held to indict one or some of the politicians or the case file will be returned to the judiciary who are already attempting to trace the trail of the alleged kickbacks paid to politicians.

Until then it is likely that political tensions will continue to rise.

Already the Novartis affair has provoked a daily exchange of barbs between ruling SYRIZA and ND officials. 

Last Friday European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, who was Greece’s health minister between 2006 and 2009, took legal action against two of the three protected witnesses on whose testimony prosecutors have built their case, saying that “not one word” of their claims are true. 

After lodging legal action against Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, his conservative predecessor Antonis Samaras last Thursday pledged to pursue his “slanderers… to the very end.”

“I won’t stop at tearing down the conspiracy against me,” said Samaras, who also sued Alternate Justice Minister Dimitris Papangelopoulos and several Greek prosecutors.

“I will go to the very end and reveal who did it, who worked them and why.” 

Tsipras’s office hit back with a brief statement, noting that “the only thing chasing Mr Samaras is his past.”

Papangelopoulos accused the former premier of trying to intimidate the judiciary.

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