The government came under intense fire on Thursday over what opposition New Democracy described as old-school practices of mass hirings to the civil service and transfers of public sector staff to Parliament.
The outcry became even more acute when it emerged that many of the scheduled transfers to Parliament concerned relatives of high-ranking officials of the leftist ruling SYRIZA party.
Conservatives were quick to accuse the government of offering scores of jobs ahead of a snap election next month.
The transfers were based on a regulation that was published in February this year and would have benefited, among others, the former wife of current Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis, the daughter of Deputy Speaker Tasia Christodoulopoulou and a former aide to Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis.
In the wake of the outcry, the government announced a freeze later in the day on half the transfers.
According to reports, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras contacted Voutsis to ask him to suspend 32 of 64 scheduled transfers.
Voutsis defended the legality and transparency of the procedure. “It would be utterly unfair if the impression were given that meritocracy does not govern matters related to Parliament’s operation, as a result of one or two cases where there may be family connections to some degree,” Voutsis said.
Meanwhile, Evangelos Venizelos, a former leader of PASOK and one-time foreign minister and deputy prime minister, bid farewell to Parliament on Thursday after 26 years of service.
His parting speech to the House was made during the debate for the ratification of the country’s legal code. But his audience consisted only of SYRIZA lawmakers as opposition lawmakers were boycotting the debate.
In a much lauded address, Venizelos said that the “walls of this chamber have ears and a memory.”
He also said he hoped that SYRIZA, as a future party of the opposition after next month’s election, will realize the significance of national unity and the importance of the “struggle that began in 2010 to save the country,” which, he said, the leftist party only recognized belatedly.