Greeks split over pension reform

As Prime Minister George Papandreou encourages ruling party cadres to rally behind painful pension and labor relations reforms ahead of a crucial vote in Parliament due on Thursday, a new opinion poll indicates that half of Greeks oppose the controversial changes while a third realize that the cuts are necessary. Sources told Kathimerini over the weekend that dissent continued to simmer in the ranks of ruling PASOK, even between certain high-ranking ministers, ahead of Thursday’s vote. But, in comments published in Sunday’s Eleftherotypia, Papandreou made it clear that the pressure was on vacillators in the ruling party to back the austerity drive. «Voting in favor of the pension reform bill is a vote of responsibility by all lawmakers toward Greek society and the next generations,» Papandreou was quoted as saying. «I will never get tired of repeating that the Greek people’s sacrifices will pay off. They are already paying off. We are on the right path,» he added. Asked whether he would expel dissenters from the party, Papandreou – who last week hinted he would call snap elections if his cadres do not support him on reforms – was emphatically upbeat. «I trust PASOK’s lawmakers, I believe that we will all live up to our responsibility to change the country,» he said. An opinion poll, carried out last week by polling firm Kappa Research on behalf of To Vima, which published the results yesterday, shows that the Greek public have mixed feelings about the reforms which would reduce monthly payments to pensioners, increase the retirement age to 65 and make it easier for employers to dismiss staff. A total of 19 percent of the 1,002 respondents said the reforms would be «catastrophic,» with another 29.6 percent calling for their immediate withdrawal. Still 35.2 percent of the respondents said they believed the changes were «necessary despite being unjust» and 14.2 percent fully supported the reforms as necessary to get Greece back on track. The same opinion poll indicated that 40 percent of Greeks were undecided about how to vote if elections were held now, with 23.4 percent saying they would back PASOK and 15.6 percent the main conservative opposition New Democracy.

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