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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-02-04
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Vote on no-confidence motion set for midnight Sunday in parliamentThe debate on a motion of no-confidence against the government tabled by the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) will end midnight Sunday with a roll-call vote. The debate continued for a third day in Parliament on Sunday, with MPs from all parties taking positions on all issues.
The debate began in began in Parliament on Friday, just hours after it was tabled by PASOK leader George Papandreou, who at the same time demanded early general elections. He also 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 blasted government policy in all areas, while ruling New Democracy (ND) MPs severely criticised Papandreou's move, and charged that it was an attempt to draw attention away from and overcome his internal party problems.
Under the Rules of Parliament, a no-confidence motion must be ratified by an absolute majority of the 300-deputy legislature (150+1) in order to pass.
Addressing the debate on Sunday, deputy foreign minister Athanasios Nakos said that neither he, but also neither the PASOK deputies, could understand what Papandreou had in mind with the no-confidence motion.
"Even if we look at it as a tactical move, in order to breathe from the noose that his internal party oppoinents have placed around his neck and to rally together his supporters, it was a failed option, because it did not cause any difficulty for the government," Nakos said.
In essence, he said, Papandreou had sacrificed his political seriousness and credibility "for a three-day manufactured tension".
"In order to conceal is own insecurities and his party's political nakedness and ideological inadequacy, he pretended self-confidence, something that he will not acquire with such methods," the deputy minister continued.
Nakos said that Papandreou, unable to take part in a broad social dialogue on the important issues concerning society, "organised a three-day happening" and, forgetting the wider public, "addressed himself to his own microcosm", believing that he could gain political time at an hour when the country has not time to lose.
The people, he added, did not have the luxury, nor the tolerance, of dealing with the internal neuroses of a party that led them to multiple impasses.
Finance undersecretary Antonis Bezos said that the motion of no-confidence tabled by PSOK was in essence a "move of weakness".
"You ask us to remain stagnant, but we reply with changes and reforms in education and the economy," Bezas said, stressing that the government was unwavering on tax evasion, resulting in the collection of VAT and tax revenues in 2006 that exceeded the targt set out in the budget, marking a 12 percent increase at a time when the nominal GDP rose by 7.6 percent.
ND party secretary Lefteris Zagoritis accused Papandreou of tabling the motion in a tactical move and of succumging to the internal party pressures by his cadres.
Zagoritis outlined the accumulated problems he said the preceding PASOK governments had left behind, "something it (PASOK) does not want to realise because, otherwise, it wouldhave apoliogised to the Greek people and carried out self-criticism".
PASOK parliamentary group chief and former minister Dimitris Reppas charged that the government's policy was a "ceaseless and relentless fatigue test for the Greek people".
"You've exhausted your weapons and your propaganda, the hopes of the Greek people and, now, a portion of the people's reserves of hope for the future," Reppas said.
PASOK MP and former labour leader Christos Protopapas called on prime minister Costas Karamanlis to accept PASOK's demand for early general elections.
He said elections were necessary in order for the government, which he accused of destroying the country, to leave.
ND parliamentary group leader Apostolos Stavrou said he feared that Papandreou was seeing a "midsummer night's dream", adding that elections would take place as scheduled and that the people would give the appropriate reply to PASOK, appreciating the "immense effort of the new governance, which is leading the government forward".
Stavrou made specific mention of his own effort for protection of the country's forests and natural environment, stressing that the need for protection was apparent today more than ever before.
PASOK MP and former minister Vasso Papandreou accused the government of "de-Hellenisation" of the Greek economy and downgrading of the public life, accusing the government of serving "specific interests" and thus "purposely leading the social insurance system to bankrupgcy and indebting IKA" while at the same time providing favourable arrangements for the banks.
Competition, she continued, was going from bad to worse, with the government advancing the sell-off of public property.
"Foreign investment means that foreign capital comes to Greece, creates jobs and imports knowhow, it does not mean that National Bank, OTE (Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation), DEH (Public Power Corporation) or the Athens Stock Exchange passes into foreign hands," she said, asking the government how will it exercise policy in the Balkans when the Greek banking system and telecoms become branches of multinational corporations.
Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) parliamentary spokesman Fotis Kouvelis said that a vote in favour of PASOK's motion of no-confidence was a vote against the conservative policy that was advancing the privatisation of the country's large public organisations and which tolerated, harboured and maintained the operation of oligopolies and cartels.
"The two-party clash between ND and PASOK is not one of substance, but an effort to feed the tensions. PASOK must tell the Greek people whether it wants the rift in education being advanced by ND. That is the issue. And the main opposition party's withdrawal (from the dialogue on the planned reform of Article 16 of the Constitution, which exclusively gives the right to the State to set up universities) does not reply to that," Kouvelis said.
PASOK MP and former minister Filippos Petsalnikos accused the prime minister of being "personally responsible and accountable to the Greek people" for failing to live up to its pre-electoral commitments which, he added, "proved to be illusory dreams".
Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis said that PASOK was not the first political party to demand elections "not in order to solve the problems of the people, but its own internal impasses", adding that "the people realise this", addressing the debate on Saturday.
She also accused PASOK of attempting to undermine the process of revision of the Constitution".
"Your motion was and is a big political step backwards, a disorderly retreat, in order to confront the political chasm that your position on Article 16 opened up. But you will be forced to go the entire distance after the next elections. You will be obliged to once again discuss the revision in this hall, and to take all the steps that you are afraid of taking today," Bakoyannis said, addressing herself to the main opposition party.
She accused PASOK of a "nihilistic word", and outlined the government's achievements in reply to the main opposition MPs' addresses.
Turning to foreign policy, she said it was characterised by consensus, adding that "there is no need to create tensions and differences where the don't exist".
"There is no benefit to the country from rendering the foreign policy issues into issues of partisan confrontation," she added.
Bakoyannis further noted that Greece had support the "new beginning" in the Cyprus isue and, replying to statements called out by PASOK MPs, reiterated that no decision regarding FYROM would be ratified without prior approval by parliament.
Commening on Bakoyannis' statements, PASOK parliamentary spokesman Haris Kastanidis accused her of "complacency", adding that the foreign minister had spoken less about her own portfolio and more about the government's overall achievements, "as if Costas Karamanlis had been speaking".
The big and weighty reason for demanding recourse to elections was that the prime minister "threw all his promises into the wastebasket", Kastanidis said. He said the greatest dishonesty of a politician ws to pledge hopes and expectations that turn out to be a deception, which elicited a retort by ND parliamentary spokesman Vassilis Magginas: "You are the champions in pledges and unfulfilled promoses, we cannot compete with you".
Public order minister Vyron Polydoras said that PASOK's no-confidence motion "is not the gauntlet for a duel but throwing in the towel" and fleeing in retreat.
As for the voting procedure on the Articles of the Constitution slated for revision that was cited by PASOK as the reason for tabling its motion of no-confidence, Polydoras spoke of the "extreme in contradiction and inconsistency" given that one of PASOK's rapporteurs, MP and former minister Theodoros Pangalos, was a "fervent proponent" of revision of Article 16 whereas the other rapporteur, MP and former minister Evangelos Venizelos, was a "fervent opponent" to the revision.
Polydoras warned, however, that what Papandreou was seeking to avoid now he wouldhave to suffer it in the next parliament "where he will 'heroically' vote for Article 16, because he voted for it in the (relevant parliamentary) committee, while stating that he will fulfill all his commitments".
SYN former leader and MP Nikos Constantopoulos stated that he would vote in favour of PASOK's motion "because I do not agree with the government's policy".
But, at the same time, he added, "I would like to tell my PASOK colleagues that the excessive and resounding arguments with which they are conducting this exercise in tactics do not give answers to the serious problems of ideological lack of direction, political displacement and party evolution that PASOK has before it".
"In censuring the government's policy, PASOK, whether it admits it or not, also censures its now policy up to now, as an opposition party. Take, for example, Article 16," Constantopoulos said.
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