ND skips Vatopedi’s final act

New Democracy abstained yesterday from a vote in Parliament on whether the Vatopedi Monastery land scandal should be the subject of a preliminary judicial investigation by MPs, leaving the floor open for opposition parties to launch stinging attacks on the conservatives. Yesterday’s session in Parliament essentially ends the involvement of deputies in the probe into whether members of the government or civil servants helped the Mount Athos monastery obtain prime public property in return for land of much lower value. PASOK tabled the motion for a more thorough probe following the initial investigation carried out by a parliamentary committee last year. The Socialists feel the role of several former ministers should be investigated further, but their insistence on conducting the inquiry is also designed to bring more pressure on the government. PASOK’s motion required 151 votes to be approved but, with opposition MPs only totaling 149, the absence of the conservative deputies meant that there was no chance of the new inquiry getting the green light. ND’s absence led to accusations that it and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis are running scared. «Today, Mr Karamanlis admits that his government does not, in a free and secret ballot, command the confidence of Parliament,» said PASOK Deputy Evangelos Venizelos. «In reality, this country does not have a government. Developments have to speed up; the country has to have elections here and now.» Ministers continued to deny yesterday that the prime minister is considering the possibility of snap elections. «Nobody is talking about early elections and that has been made clear by the government itself several times,» said Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos.

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