Greek parliament ties up loose ends before early elections
GREECE: Greek lawmakers wrapped up their legislative activity late
Tuesday ahead of snap elections expected next month as a poll predicted
an uncertain outcome due to anger over austerity measures.
The 300-seat chamber approved a labour bill restructuring social
security funds, the last piece of legislation that the caretaker
government of Lucas Papademos had pledged to pass before the ballot at
the behest of the country’s creditors, the EU and IMF.
Under an amendment adopted late at night a “closed centre” would be
set up near Athens for immigrants without papers, the first of some 30
nationwide announced recently by Socialist Minister for Protection of
the Citizen Michalis Chryssohoides.
The opposition parties on the left and far-right voted against the
amendment, charging the centrist coalition was holding a “last-minute”
vote on immigration problems that had been there for years.
“This parliamentary period draws to a close,” parliament speaker
Philippos Petsalnikos told the chamber.
Papademos is expected to submit his mandate this week to the head of
state, President Carolos Papoulias, who will then issue a decree
dissolving parliament and calling for elections within 30 days.
Papoulias was to see Papademos at 1400 GMT on Wednesday, the
president’s office said in a statement. According to ministers and other
officials, May 6 is the most likely date.
“All the conditions are present for elections on May 6,” Antonis
Samaras, head of the conservative New Democracy party that leads opinion
polls, told private Mega television in an interview on Monday.
Mega released a poll giving New Democracy a four-point lead over
coalition partner the socialist Pasok party, which is narrowing the gap
under its new leader, former finance minister Evangelos Venizelos. The
survey by pollsters GPO suggests that with a mere 18.2 percent of the
vote, New Democracy may be unable to form a majority government.
Amid mounting anger over two years of painful austerity, nearly one
in five respondents did not give a party preference and over three
percent said they would support a neo-Nazi party, giving them enough
votes to enter parliament.
Papademos took over in November as head of a coalition backed by New
Democracy and Pasok to complete a debt-saving bond swap with private
creditors and ratify a eurozone bailout worth 130 billion euros ($171
But Samaras insisted on Monday he would not form a government with
Pasok if his party failed to garner enough votes, even if this meant
that repeat elections are necessary. According to the interior ministry,
each legislative election costs around 60 million euros.
“If a government cannot be formed... we will have to hold fresh
elections, even if the country remains without a government (until
then),” the conservative leader said.