PM calls for con­sti­tu­tion vote

Pa­pan­dreou wants ref­er­en­dum in the fall in or­der to over­haul state sec­tor, ap­peals again for con­sen­sus

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou yes­ter­day pro­posed a ref­er­en­dum in the fall on a pro­posal to re­vise the Greek Con­sti­tu­tion, say­ing that he was pre­pared to make rad­i­cal changes to the state sys­tem as part of a broader ef­fort to nurse the debt-rid­den econ­omy back to health.

Open­ing a de­bate in Par­lia­ment that is to cul­mi­nate to­mor­row night with a con­fi­dence vote in his newly reshuf­fled Cabi­net, Pa­pan­dreou said that “a lack of mer­i­toc­racy and trans­parency in the state sec­tor” had con­trib­uted largely to the coun­try’s dire eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion and pro­posed a ref­er­en­dum on re­forms that would over­haul a dys­func­tional sys­tem. The premier also an­nounced the cre­ation of an in­de­pen­dent panel of be­tween 20 and 25 ex­perts who would ex­am­ine pro­pos­als for changes in­clud­ing a re­duc­tion to the 300-seat Par­lia­ment, the abo­li­tion of a law pro­tect­ing gov­ern­ment min­is­ters from pros­e­cu­tion and an over­haul of the elec­toral sys­tem.

Fur­ther­more, he said the gov­ern­ment had boosted ef­forts to crack down on tax eva­sion and was in­ves­ti­gat­ing Greek cit­i­zens’ de­posits in Swiss banks. “We are look­ing into the is­sue of the trans­fer of cap­i­tal abroad,” he said.

As his newly ap­pointed fi­nance min­is­ter, Evan­ge­los Venize­los, ar­rived in Lux­em­bourg to meet his eu­ro­zone coun­ter­parts, Pa­pan­dreou con­firmed that talks were con­tin­u­ing be­tween the gov­ern­ment and its for­eign cred­i­tors on the cre­ation of a sec­ond bailout pack­age that was “roughly equal” to last year’s emer­gency pack­age of 110 bil­lion eu­ros.

De­spite four un­suc­cess­ful ap­peals to po­lit­i­cal ri­vals to join a cross-party con­sen­sus on a new aus­ter­ity pro­gram, Pa­pan­dreou stressed the im­por­tance of es­tab­lish­ing com­mon ground once again. “The con­se­quences of a sud­den bank­ruptcy or exit from the eu­ro­zone would be im­me­di­ately dis­as­trous for Greek house­holds, banks, and the coun­try’s cred­i­bil­ity,” he said, ap­peal­ing to op­po­si­tion politi­cians “to stop fight­ing in these crit­i­cal times, stop pro­ject­ing the im­age that the coun­try is be­ing torn apart.”

But op­po­si­tion party lead­ers ap­peared un­moved by the over­ture. Ac­cus­ing the rul­ing So­cial­ists of un- leash­ing “an orgy of pop­ulism,” the leader of con­ser­va­tive New Democ­racy, An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras, re­it­er­ated his calls for early gen­eral elec­tions and a rene­go­ti­a­tion of the terms of Greece’s agree­ment with its for­eign cred­i­tors.

Com­mu­nist Party (KKE) leader Aleka Pa­pariga also called for snap polls, dis­miss­ing the pro­posal of a ref­er­en­dum as an at­tempt to “cheat” the Greek peo­ple.

The leader of the far-right Pop­u­lar Ortho­dox Rally (LAOS), Gior­gos Karatzaferis, con­demned the new Cabi­net as “deep PASOK” and in­sisted on the need for a unity gov­ern­ment.

The head of the Coali­tion of the Rad­i­cal Left (SYRIZA), Alexis Tsipras, ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of fear­ing elec­tions and de­scribed its midterm pro­gram – a new raft of tax hikes, spend­ing cuts and pri­va­ti­za­tions – as the “kiss of death for the Greek peo­ple.”

An opin­ion poll car­ried out prior to last week’s reshuf­fle showed that 47.5 per­cent of re­spon­dents want Par­lia­ment to re­ject the re­form pack­age and for Greece to hold early elec­tions. Just over a third – 34.8 per­cent – said they want the pack­age ap­proved so Greece can se­cure a sec­ond bailout, ac­cord­ing to the poll in Sun­day’s Vima news­pa­per.

Yes­ter­day thou­sands of self-pro­claimed “In­dig­nant” pro­test­ers, who have been stag­ing peace­ful nightly protests out­side Par­lia­ment, gath­ered again to ex­press their op­po­si­tion to the on­go­ing aus­ter­ity drive.

The leader of the main con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion New Democ­racy party, An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras, leaves the stand yes­ter­day af­ter ad­dress­ing Par­lia­ment where Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou opened a three-day de­bate that is to con­clude at mid­night to­mor­row with a vote of con­fi­dence in the premier’s new Cabi­net. Sa­ma­ras, who has re­jected four over­tures by Pa­pan­dreou aimed at se­cur­ing cross-party con­sen­sus, was adamant in his re­jec­tion of the new gov­ern­ment. Pa­pan­dreou is due in Brus­sels to­day for talks with Euro­pean of­fi­cials.

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