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Greek parliamentarians 'shook' Lucas Papademos office

25 January 2012 / 21:01:12  GRReporter
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The roll-call vote of the huge bill of the Ministry of Finance by a number of members has turned into a thriller for the parliamentary support of the Greek cabinet. The bill contains the emergency regulations for the implementation of the medium-term budgetary strategy for the period 2012-2015. Most striking was the behaviour of the members of PASOK as forty of them voted against various articles of the legal text.

The most serious political blow was against the Minister of Health Andreas Loverdos, whose decree for the liberalization of opening hours of pharmacies was not adopted. Thus, PASOK parliamentarians ignored the Minister of Finance, Evangelos Venizelos, who invited them to support the bill in its entirety.

The voting has become a torture for many of the ministers, whose faces clearly showed how confused and frustrated they were. Andreas Loverdos was leaning against his hand thoughtfully and Evangelos Venizelos was walking back and forth, apparently worried about the course of the procedure. After the vote, he approached the tellers, demanding to be informed of the outcome as soon as possible. "Tell me the number of votes. Do we have a majority or not," were his words.

One after another, "green" deputies voted "no" or "abstain" for key articles of the bill. Among them were the regulations on the imposition of taxes on freelancers, the settlement of financial obligations of municipalities, the ban on the merger of public organizations, including the closure of some of their subsidiaries and the dismissal of their staff, the cuts of Christmas and Easter bonuses for retirees under the age of 60 years, and the liberalization of opening hours of pharmacies.

The vote count showed that all regulations were voted except for the decree on pharmacies because 101of the 253 deputies supported it, 65 did not and 87 abstained.

There was a response from the "blue camp" too caused by the absence of New Democracy deputies.  Those present voted in favour of all articles and abstained on the regulation for pharmacies.  Twenty-six deputies were absent. Sixteen of them left the room, having realized that many of their colleagues from PASOK would vote against some regulations, especially in the case of Article 6, which introduces changes in the establishment of law firms. They preferred to leave the room and thus contribute to the rejection of the regulation. "In the majority, they are lawyers and representatives of the "people’s right," said a colleague of theirs from New Democracy.

There were absentees from PASOK too, the first among them its leader George Papandreou, who is in Costa Rica for the Congress of the Socialist International.
The vote began with a bad omen because of the Minister of Health's refusal to include the improved regulation on the opening hours of pharmacies in the bill. It provided that pharmacists who are going to work longer hours than specified must inform the local pharmaceutical associations and the competent person in charge for the region. Despite the responses from all parties, excluding PASOK, Andreas Loverdos refused to withdraw the regulation, which "is positive and does not harm anyone" in his opinion.

Unnamed associates of the Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos said, "This picture is indicative of how difficult the fight against professional interests is and how great their influence is on lawmakers."

At the same time, the key ministers of the government of George Papandreou one after another attempted to decline all responsibility for the current situation in Greece. The Minister of Development Michalis Chrysochoidis, who is one of the contenders for leadership in PASOK, said in a television show that he had not read the text of the memorandum of economic assistance to the country before signing it. "I did not read the memorandum. At that time, I was Minister for Citizens Protection and I was engaged in the fight against crime and terrorist organizations in the country," he said, causing an "avalanche" of jokes and not so well-intentioned comments in social media. His colleague and former Minister of Employment Louka Katseli said she had "only three hours on a Saturday morning" to get acquainted with the text of the agreement with the lenders to the country. However, this in no case prevented them from praising it a few months ago. What is still kept secret is why they have not bothered to read it after having signed it.

Tags: PoliticsParliamentVoteBillMinistry of FinanceRegulation on opening hours of pharmacies
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