Greek leaders ask deputies to back austerity measures
AP ATHENS THE leaders of the two parties backing Greece’s coalition government called on their deputies on Saturday to back legislation that calls for harsh new austerity measures essential if Greece is to get a new bailout deal worth $171.6 billion and stave off bankruptcy.
A plenary session will debate and vote on the new bailout and a debt-swapping deal with private creditors on Sunday. Further legislation detailing the measures demanded by, and agreed with, Greece’s public creditors, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, will be up for vote a few days later. The exact time has not yet been set.
Both leaders‚ socialist George Papandreou and conservative Antonis Samaras‚ told their respective parliamentary groups that there is no real alternative to voting for the legislation, except pushing Greece to bankruptcy.
“If we do not dare today, we will live a catastrophe,” Papandreou said.
“This (bailout) will give the country the opportunity and the time to stand back on its feet,” said Samaras.
Deputies are wary of voting for the measures, which include wage and pension cuts and the prospect of more to come, along with the firing of several thousand civil servants.
The demands of the EU and the IMF have caused one of the original coalition parties‚ the populist rightwing Popular Orthodox Party‚ to quit the government and withdraw its four members from the cabinet. Two more cabinet members‚ both socialist deputy ministers‚ have also quit, citing their disagreements with parts of the austerity package.
Sensing the unease among their MPs, and trying to prevent a wholesale rebellion, both Papandreou and Samaras have called for a yes vote. But whereas Papandreou was vague about the prospect of sanctions against any rebels, Samaras was clear ‚ threatening to expel those who did not vote in favour and to exclude them from the next election. “I want to make it absolutely clear ... rebels or ‘bravehearts’ have no place in (the party’s) candidate lists,” he said.
Samaras had opposed the initial bailout, worth ‚ €110 billion, that Papandreou, as Prime Minister, had negotiated in May 2010, saying the measures it contained would worsen the crises and result in a deep recession. He now says he feels vindicated, but conditions have worsened so much lately‚ due to the bad handling of the crisis by the previous government.