Stricter law creates stir

A draft bill prepared by the Justice Ministry introducing stricter penalties for MPs who have accepted bribes has been met with opposition from within the conservative government on the grounds that it will reduce officials’ political muscle, sources told Kathimerini yesterday. Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras said earlier this week that he would be fast tracking through Parliament a bill which introduces a range of new laws to tackle graft in the private and public sector. The prospective law makes it an offense for the first time to «offer to exercise influence.» This means that anyone – MPs or municipal officials – found to have promised to influence people involved in a decision-making process in exchange for a reward could face between three months to five years in jail. MPs are rejecting the measure, arguing that it will limit the political initiatives they will be able to deliver on behalf of voters. Additionally, the bill puts MPs on the same footing as municipal officials. Sources said government MPs are prepared to vote against the bill when it comes before lawmakers. It is not clear when the bill will head to Parliament. Meanwhile, the government yesterday protected Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and his deputy Yiannis Papathanassiou from claims that the two have weakened the role of the Competition Commission for their own personal benefit. Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said that the government has made steps to help protect consumers and that for the first time suspected cartels in the dairy sector are being investigated.