Greek government gets key backing to pass reforms

Tue Oct 30, 2012 5:43pm EDT
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By Renee Maltezou and Harry Papachristou

ATHENS (Reuters) - An overwhelming majority of Greek Socialist lawmakers have agreed to vote in favor of contested austerity reforms, party officials told Reuters on Tuesday, sharply increasing the odds of securing parliamentary approval for the measures.

Near-bankrupt Greece needs to push through spending cuts and tax measures worth 13.5 billion euros as well as a raft of reforms to appease EU and IMF lenders and secure bailout money needed to avoid running out of cash next month.

After months of negotiations on the austerity plan, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras announced on Tuesday that talks had been completed and implored his allies to back the package.

The prime minister's New Democracy party and the Socialist PASOK have between them 160 deputies, nine more than they need for an absolute majority in parliament.

But the third party in the coalition, Democratic Left, refuses to back the proposed new labor laws which could tempt other deputies to defect and leave the government facing an unpredictable vote in parliament next week.

However, the odds of parliamentary approval jumped after Socialist PASOK deputies agreed to back the reforms.

"The overwhelming majority of PASOK lawmakers are in favor of the package," one of the party officials said, adding that just two of the 33 PASOK lawmakers would vote against the package, while another two had yet to decide.

Still, a flurry of contradictory statements from the three coalition parties highlighted the chaos ahead of the crucial vote on austerity measures, which has become the government's biggest test since taking power in June.   Continued...

Banking sector employees march in front of the parliament during a rally against planned reforms at their pension fund in central Athens October 30, 2012. A Greek coalition partner confirmed on Tuesday it would vote against labour reforms proposed by foreign lenders, ignoring the prime minister's appeal for a united front to push through more unpopular austerity. REUTERS/John Kolesidis