Greek lawmakers quit over austerity cuts
ATHENS (AFP) – Two Greek government lawmakers quit Thursday over their party’s unpopular austerity policies as Prime Minister George Papandreou was to name a new government to deal with the country’s debt crisis.
George Floridis, a 55-year-old former deputy finance minister, announced his departure from the ruling party’s parliamentary group in protest over an unsuccessful recovery effort that has failed to lift the Greek economy.
A second deputy and frequent critic, 59-year-old Hector Nasiokas, announced his intention to resign later in the day.
“Today I will submit my resignation to the parliament chairman,” Nasiokas told the chamber. “It’s the least I can do to break the current deadlock.”
Both deputies had criticised the government’s wage cuts and tax hikes, part of an adjustment effort mandated by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in return for a massive loan rescue last year.
In a two-page letter to parliament head Filippos Petsalnikos, Floridis accused the government of “erroneous choices”, “planning weakness” and “unprecedented ineffectiveness.”
“Only a national salvation (government) could secure political stability… but the leadership of the two main parties proved unequal to the task,” Floridis said, referring to failed talks at a unity government between Papandreou and main opposition leader Antonis Samaras.
Another veteran Socialist lawmaker defected this week, turning independent MP and slashing the government’s parliamentary majority to five seats.
But Floridis’ resignation on Thursday will not further affect the ruling party majority as his seat remains in Socialist hands.
Nasiokas is also expected to deliver his seat to a Socialist runner-up in the last elections.
Greek lawmakers have been subjected to scathing verbal attacks in recent weeks by thousands of protesters gathered outside parliament to reject the government’s tough economic policies.
Papandreou’s government is locked in tough negotiations with its European peers for a new bailout after a previous EU-IMF rescue was deemed insufficient to get the recession-plagued Greek economy back on its feet.
Late on Wednesday he announced a government reshuffle and a confidence vote to help galvanise support for another round of austerity cuts worth over 28 billion euros ($40 billion) demanded by Greece’s creditors for a new bailout.
The new government is expected to be sworn in on Friday while the confidence vote could be held as early as Sunday, parliament sources said.
Greece has warned it will be unable to pay next month’s bills without a 12-billion-euro loan instalment from the EU and the IMF, part of a broader 110-billion-euro bailout package agreed last year.