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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-02-02

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Debate on PASOK's no-confidence motion kicks off in Parliament

  • [01] Debate on PASOK's no-confidence motion kicks off in Parliament

    Debate on a motion of no confidence in the government began in Parliament on Friday, just hours after it was tabled by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou. Papandreou, who at the same time demanded early elections, announced that his party's MPs were withdrawing from the debate on revision of the Constitution.

    Leading the debate, speakers for PASOK accused the government of flouting the Constitution and Parliamentary procedure and hinted at involvement in financial scandals.

    Interior and Public Administration Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, as the government's chief rapporteur in the debate over the motion, lambasted Papandreou' move and charged that it was an attempt to solve his internal party problems.

    "Does anyone seriously believe the reasoning behind the tabling of PASOK's no confidence motion? ... Does anyone believe the reasons for its submission, other than to solve internal party problems?" Pavlopoulos underlined from Parliament's podium.

    PASOK MP for Thessaloniki Evangelos Venizelos accused the government of "demeaning and trivializing" democratic procedures and said there was an issue "Constitutional legality".

    He was referring, in particular, to an incident on Wednesday when the government's proposal for revising article 24 of the Constitution was nearly passed by a Parliamentary committee without the required number of votes when New Democracy Parliamentary group secretary Apostolos Stavrou was counted among the voters, even though he was not actually a committee member.

    The irregularity was pointed out by opposition MPs and a recount showed that the proposal did not have the required backing among ND deputies on the Committee. The Committee's vote is not binding, however, and the proposal can still be presented before the full Parliament.

    "The day before yesterday we witnessed a flagrant attempt to falsify an electoral result, blackmail and pressure against ND MPs that dared to vote according to their conscience," Venizelos said.

    PASOK MP Theodoros Pangalos slammed Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki for saying that those in charge of the proceedings were "momentarily carried away" to descibe what he called an attempt to "falsify Parliament's verdict during a debate on revising the Constitution".

    He also hinted at major financial scandals that he said PASOK would "not allow to be buried".

    "A ring of your party officials, a ring that was extremely close to your ministers, were installed in the depths of the Competition Commission, from where control of the economy should be exercised. They were uncovered - and you hurried to either cover up or reward them," Pangalos said.

    The MP also accused the government of mis-spending state funds through moves like the purchase of Turkey's Finansbank at what he said was five times its actual value, or the acquisition of the retail electronic goods chain Germanos, hinting that certain quarters had received lavish kickbacks from the two deals.

    Pavlopoulos: PASOK 'no confidence' motion a 'cover' to avoid vote on Article 16

    Interior and Public Administration Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, as the government's chief rapporteur in the debate over the motion, lambasted Papandreou' move and charged that it was an attempt to solve his internal party problems.

    "Does anyone seriously believe the reasoning behind the tabling of PASOK's no confidence motion? ... Does anyone believe the reasons for its submission, other than to solve internal party problems?" Pavlopoulos underlined from Parliament's podium.

    According to Pavlopoulos, the reasons cited by PASOK absolutely do not justify such a motion -- which, if successful, will result in the calling of general elections.

    Moreover, Pavlopoulos directly charged that PASOK's motion is no more than "cover" for abstaining from the entire revision process in Parliament, thereby preventing the presence of its deputies from a vote allowing the possible revision of controversial Article 16 -- so as to lift current prohibitions on establishing non-state universities in the country -- and thus avoiding political fallout from a split PASOK vote.

    Papandreou has repeatedly voiced his support for revising Article 16, whereas a handful of PASOK MPs -- including one of the two PASOK rapporteurs on Friday, Evangelos Venizelos -- oppose attempts to allow non-state higher education institutions in the country.

    "PASOK is leaving because debate and a vote by Parliament's plenum would be painful for PASOK," Pavlopoulos said, while stressing that Papandreou has now crossed over to Venizelos' position.

    The minister, a noted constitutional law expert by training, also pointed to PASOK's overall history -- as he claimed -- of walking out of Parliament during crucial votes, pointing to its abstention from debate on the first post-dictatorship constitution of 1975; its exit from the chamber during a vote to ratify Greece's accession to the European Union before 1980 and a PASOK government's declaration of early elections in 1996, a decision he said scuttled constitutional revision at the time.

    As per Article 16, Pavlopoulos said PASOK cannot perpetually avoid its responsibilities. "If it avoids them now, it will not avoid them after the elections, because they may avoid internal friction for the time being, but won't they have to express their position after the election regarding Article 16?" he rhetorically asked.

    Finally, Pavlopoulos said PASOK has the temerity to demand early elections without having yet unveiled its own election programme.

    "The only thing Mr. Papandreou has achieved is to ruin his deputies' weekend," he concluded.

    No confidence motion leads to 'fiasco', KKE's Papariga says

    Taking the stand, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga said that PASOK's no confidence motion would be a "great fiasco".

    According to Papariga, it would result in a systematic effort to impose the 24-hour domination of forced dilemmas that called for either reforms or chaos, on the one hand, and elections or chaos, on the other.

    "It is an opportunity for thought by the people, farmers, pensioners, those who are engaged in struggle, to exert mass, dynamic pressure and to create situations of mass counterattack. In this process, when partisanship peaks, the element of hope is the people's intervention," she said.

    According to Papariga, ruling New Democracy was "fulfilling its pre-election pledges with very great consistency," while PASOK's opposition, in its attempt to slide out of its commitments, cover up its agreement with the government and serve the interests of big capital, was a "joke".

    "I cannot choose which one is the best representative of capital," Papariga concluded.

    Gov't, party comments on no confidence motion

    Reacting to Papandreou's tabling of the motion earlier on Friday, the government said that it was an effort to escape major internal party problems, for the sake of which PASOK's leader was sacrificing a revision of Constitution.

    Regarding Papandreou's call for early elections, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stressed that the government had yet to complete its work, while adding that the prime minister's statements on the timing of the elections still applied.

    In response to PASOK's threat to withdraw from the debate on revising the Constitution, Antonaros stressed that there was no way for Papandreou to justify resorting to such tactics.

    Papandreou

    Outlining the reasons for tabling the no confidence motion, Papandreou charged that the current government "has lied to the people" with its pre-election promises.

    He also repeated charges that ND had "taken from the many and weak (financially needy) to give to the few and powerful" as well as "selling off" state assets and causing state coffers to contribute an extra four billion euros towards the EU's budget following a "bogus" upwards revision of Greece's GDP.

    Moreover, the PASOK leader again underlined standing criticism over the government's policy in the sectors of education, health care, the capacious public administration and social security reform.

    Finally, he said the country was being "ridiculed" on a daily basis on several foreign policy fronts.

    "The government has fallen into the eddy of pre-election reasoning. It is not doing anything anymore. It is injurious for the country. We're saying: enough," the PASOK leader said from Parliament's podium.

    Synaspismos

    On his part, Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos noted that "only one no confidence motion has been passed and is bearing results: the movement in the education sector in favour of a public university".

    According to the Synaspismos leader, Papandreou's announcement that PASOK will walk out of the debate for constitutional revision means the "bipartisan (ND and PASOK) consensus" to allow revision of Article 16 (by the next Parliament) with 180 votes has been "broken".

    "We had said it: the movement for Article 16; the youth movement for Article 16 will turn into a river (of protest). And it has become just that. It will determine political developments?" he concluded.


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