PASOK’s consensus is evaporating

Prime Minister George Papandreou is due to meet with opposition leaders today in a bid to build consensus around the economic reforms the government is introducing, but his own party yesterday was far from being in total agreement with these policies. Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou received a verbal battering when he appeared before a group of PASOK MPs, and the attack continued when he later responded to questions from a parliamentary committee. The PASOK deputies expressed concern about the latest set of measures, which include legislation that would allow companies to bypass collective contracts, but also vented their anger about the government’s apparent failure to consult with them before drafting the changes. The government is submitting the bill as emergency legislation, which severely restricts the time for debate as each party is only allowed to appoint two of its MPs to speak in the House. «This process is nullifying the role of Parliament,» said Socialist MP Yiannis Amoiridis. «It is nullifying the role of unions. It means there is a democratic deficit.» Another PASOK deputy castigated the government for adhering to the strict timetable and process set by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. «It is one thing to accept the terms of a loan shark, it is another to accept the way the loan shark operates,» said Evangelos Papachristos. «The way you are behaving is creating a crisis of confidence in the government among PASOK MPs,» Costas Geitonas told Papaconstantinou. The finance minister then had to suffer the criticism of his own party’s lawmakers again when he sat before Parliament’s economic affairs committee. «There has not been enough dialogue about the measures in the EU-IMF memorandum and the new legislation,» said Elias Mossialos. «We have not signed over the rights to the country,» said Panayiotis Kouroublis. Commentators remarked that it was exceedingly rare for a government and its finance minister to receive such strong public criticism from its own deputies. PASOK has a seven-seat majority in Parliament and is unlikely to lose today’s vote but opposition parties are demanding that it not be a secret ballot, which could mean Papandreou having to oust any Socialists who do not support the reform bill. The government is also set to have a rough ride when Papandreou meets with the other party leaders, bar the head of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), Alexis Tsipras, who is boycotting the talks. Sources said New Democracy would vote for some of the bill’s provisions but that its leader Antonis Samaras would not offer consensus to Papandreou unless he adopts the conservatives’ proposals on promoting growth.

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