ND braces for House votes

The New Democracy government is facing from today perhaps its most crucial week since first coming to power in March 2004, as Parliament prepares to vote on two motions regarding an investigation into the Vatopedi property deal that is alleged to have left public coffers some 100 million euros short. Ministers insisted over the weekend that they are confident the votes in the House will go the way the conservatives want but the margins are so tight that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is unlikely to feel any relief until the second vote, on Friday, is over. On Wednesday, MPs will gather to debate and vote on the government’s proposal that an investigative committee be set up in Parliament to look into the recent exchange of land between the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos and the state. The ruling conservatives became only the third government to ask for such a committee to be set up after two prosecutors in charge of the probe resigned, citing interference from superiors, after discovering evidence of wrongdoing at the ministerial level. The government hopes that by handing the case over to a parliamentary committee it can escape any accusations of an attempt at a cover-up. PASOK, however, has called for a more powerful pre-judicial inquiry to be held by Parliament, to examine the roles of former Agricultural Development Minister Evangelos Basiakos, current Deputy Foreign Minister Petros Doukas and State Minister and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos. This motion will be debated and voted on Friday. It will need 151 deputies in the 300-seat Parliament voting in favor to be adopted. If all opposition parties support the proposal – so far only the Communist Party is wavering – then three ND MPs will have to support the motion for it to pass. PASOK is hoping that some of the ND rebels, who have been a thorn in Karamanlis’s side recently, will not toe the government line.