Vote fallout

The vote against a bill banning deputies from holding second jobs by a parliamentary committee late January turned out to be a preview of the government’s eventual defeat. Parliament yesterday finally buried the bill with 149 votes against and 140 in favor of the measure. Three deputies voted «present,» while a considerable number abstained. This time, the blockers did not need the help of ailing Socialist deputy Evangelos Yiannopoulos. The outcome of the vote was foreshadowed Wednesday when 10 PASOK deputies signed a petition asking for a roll call. The challenge to the bill, as well as the broader rift over the requisite exceptions and deputies’ compensations foreseen by the bill, should teach everyone a lesson that proxy moves aimed at making an impression can backfire. The law was included in the new Constitution without much reflection and without any consideration of whether it should be passed through an inflexible constitutional provision. Responsibility does not just lie with the rapporteurs, the leadership of the ruling party and the opposition, nor with the deputies who voted for the measure. A part of the blame also lies with us, the journalists and ordinary citizens, for we all helped shape a climate of superficial calls for transparency which politicians rushed to accentuate. The result of yesterday’s vote will trigger crucial short-term developments. The no-vote by the Socialist deputies does not mean that they wish to overthrow the government, but it can only be interpreted as a no-confidence vote for Prime Minister Costas Simitis, as the insistence on this particular bill and the refusal to re-examine it were his own personal choice. PASOK deputies were faced with the dilemma «with Simitis or against him» and, this time, they did not hesitate to cross the Rubicon. In fact, their determination makes one wonder whether the government did not call for a vote of confidence out of fear that it would also backfire. In combination with the leaks from inside the Socialist party, the outcome of yesterday’s vote shows PASOK is revaluating its leadership, and seeking new faces and fresh solutions for the coming elections – or the day after. Adding to the overall pressure on the government, the concerns within the party are a new source of uncertainty. This reinforces fears that the government does not have enough room to work undistracted, nor the courage to take urgently needed measures.