Turnout sets gov’t thinking

The large attendance at Wednesday’s rally against the government’s pension reforms has forced the ruling conservatives to rethink their strategy in handling the politically sensitive issue, sources said yesterday. Up to 100,000 people marched through the streets of Athens to protest the government’s plans to merge pension funds and change the early retirement system. The rally had higher attendance than the protests held when the PASOK government last attempted to reform pensions in 2001. It was a mostly peaceful march with only six people being detained. Four of those were charged with causing damage and resisting arrest yesterday. The size of Wednesday’s rally troubled New Democracy, which is now considering what its next step should be, sources said. Publicly, however, the government was insisting yesterday that it would forge ahead with the reforms despite the large turnout at the rally. «The government is listening to other views as part of the dialogue that is taking place on the overhaul of the pension system, which the majority of the Greek people agrees with,» said government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros. He added that the ruling conservatives want to see out the discussions they have invited other political parties and unions to take part in before they draw up the draft law on pension reforms. The government is also concerned about the pressure being put on Employment Minister Vassilis Magginas, who was the target of many of the chants at Wednesday’s rally. Magginas recently has been accused of employing uninsured migrants at one of his homes but has denied the claims. The government has backed him over the newspaper story but there have been growing complaints about the minister within ND, particularly about his handling of the pension issue. «[Magginas] will go down in history as the minister that provoked a reaction and a big strike without tabling a bill,» said ND Deputy Yiannis Manolis.