Deputies battle it out

Sparks flew inside and outside of Parliament yesterday as MPs debated the government’s record ahead of a midnight no-confidence vote that the ruling conservatives were expected to win, thanks to their majority in the House. The censure motion was submitted by PASOK leader George Papandreou and he took a break from the debate last night to speak to hundreds of supporters that had gathered in Syntagma Square for a protest against the government. Shrugging off the rain, Papandreou told the crowd that he intended to halt New Democracy’s plans for more reforms, following the opposition to changes to the pension system. «PASOK declares the battle to reverse the situation and from tomorrow we will be on the sidewalks, in the cities, on the streets, in the neighborhoods,» the Socialist leader told supporters. The government dismissed his stump speech as a populist move of little consequence. «It is up to him if he wants to turn PASOK into a leftist protest party but his father Andreas Papandreou would be turning in his grave,» said Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos. ND secretary Yiannis Tragakis said that the public rally was a sign of PASOK’s desperation. «We are not in a pre-election period for PASOK to invite people to Syntagma Square for a rally, it proves what a dead end they are in,» he said. The government has 151 MPs in the 300-seat Parliament – the slimmest of majorities but enough to ensure that the no-confidence vote would be defeated. Independent MP Costas Koukodimos was also expected to vote with the government. Papandreou’s move to submit a censure motion has been criticized as an attempt to stop supporters from defecting to the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which has gained in recent opinion polls. But PASOK insisted yesterday that it was simply reflecting the dissatisfaction with the conservatives’ measures, as indicated in opinion polls. «As the main opposition, we are expressing the disillusionment of the Greek people with the government’s policies,» said Socialist MP Andreas Loverdos. «Populism is sweet music to the ear of voters but the truth is a bitter pill to swallow,» said government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos of PASOK’s tactics.

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