The amendments made to the contentious single property tax (ENFIA) narrowly passed through Parliament on Thursday but only after the government replaced eight of its lawmakers.
The coalition insisted that almost all of the replacements were made because deputies could not attend the vote rather than because they intended to oppose the government legislation. In the end, the bill passed with the support of just 51 of 100 deputies.
The fact that Parliament is still in its summer session, when 100 rather than 300 MPs sit in the House, means that the parties can replace lawmakers for votes.
New Democracy’s Lefteris Avgenakis and PASOK’s Nikos Sifounakis both said they would not vote in favor of the latest changes to the tax, which include a 20 percent reduction in the levy on homes that are empty or which do not have electricity. However, the coalition said that apart from Sifounakis, the other seven MPs (including Avgenakis) who were substituted were not intending to oppose the amendments.
New Democracy said two of its MPs were ill, one could not attend for personal reasons and two (including Avgenakis) were out of Athens. PASOK replaced three lawmakers, including Sifounakis.
Although the legislation made it through Parliament, there was still discontent within the New Democracy parliamentary group as MPs objected to the fact that Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis did not appear in Parliament for the debate. He was on his way to Brussels for Friday’s Eurogroup, the government said. Conservative lawmakers were also angered that another last-minute change to ENFIA saw only the rate at which small businesses in the tourism sector were taxed being reduced.
However, New Democracy MPs insisted in public that there was no chance of the unrest within the parliamentary group affecting the coalition’s stability. “There is no chance of the government being brought down,” said Andreas Psycharis.
“The New Democracy parliamentary group is united,” said Adonis Georgiadis. But the former health minister raised questions about whether Hardouvelis should remain in his job after the numerous mistakes over ENFIA.