Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Sunday reiterated his call for national unity behind the government’s latest batch of austerity measures and accelerated reforms, opening a three-day vote of confidence debate that winds up on midnight Tuesday with an open roll-call vote.
Papandreou called on Parliament to give his newly reshuffled government a renewed vote of conference, noting that the country is at a critical crossroads and warning that an image of division among the Greek people was not helping the country.
Warning that a disorderly bankruptcy would be catastrophic, Papandreou stressed that the country’s lenders, the EU and the IMF, want to see Greece standing on its own two feet, adding that the problems would not be solved if the IMF was asked to leave, and warning also that the country’s liquidity will be very soon exhausted without the disbursement of the fifth tranche of the EC-ECB-IMF bailout package.
Papandreou asked for national consensus on several fundamental axes, and a referendum on major changes which, as he said, will be contained in an amended Constitution.
The axes for the national understanding, as he said, include acknowledgement that the external debt and annual budget deficits constitute a national problem and that “we must be the first to put our house in order”. He noted that Greece will not be able to borrow (on the international markets) in 2012 “and this is an unexpected new complication that we need to look straight in the eye, and not with our heads buried in the sand”, Papandreou elaborated.
The premier said that his new government will move along six axes:
Correction of injustices “that existed before and became apparent with the implementation Memorandum”, noting that the Memorandum was not to blame for them; working for a new Constitution that will be comprehensible to every citizen, with a series of changes on which Greek society would decide with referendum; a programme of sweeping changes in public administration; changes to the country’s production model; an efficient social state and safeguarding “major conquests” in the European Union.
In that same context, Papandreou underlined that the national issues are excluded from any negotiation whatsoever in relation to Greece's economic problem, and regarding the "collateral guarantees of the loan, we cannot accept terms that are derogatory for the country, otherwise we could reach a dead-end, with whatever that would imply".
Papandreou also assured that the people's sacrifices were not going to waste, noting the 5 percent decrease in the deficit achieved and a record increase posted in exports.
The fact that Greece has not succeeded in returning to the international markets in 2012 is a failure of the forecasts by the EC-ECB-IMF "troika", and not by Greece, whose proposals continue to be disregarded to a great degree, Papandreou stressed.
Finally, Papandreou launched a personal attack on ND leader Antonis Samaras, accusing him of torpedoing the consensus and the "historic opportunity for Greece to turn page".
He accused Samaras of asking for elections in order to drag Greece into new misadventures, and said the ND leader's proposals for the economy "lack credibility".
Samaras insists on snap elections: 'Gov't has permanently lost people's confidence'
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras reiterated his call for early elections, adding that recourse to the people's judgement is the only real solution and the only path for Greece's exodus from uncertainty.
ND will not give a vote of confidence to the government in which not even Prime Minister George Papandreou believes in, and because he is persisting in a policy that only creates new problems, Samaras said.
He also accused Papandreou of "not daring" to proceed to the creation of a "national salvation government", but instead created a partisan government aimed at gluing together his ruling PASOK party, thus opting to prevent the collapse of his party instead of the unity of the Greek people.
Samaras reiterated his firm positions that a renegotiation of the terms of the Memorandum, jump-starting the economy and restoring social cohesion are the only conditions for consensus, and criticised the government of carrying on with the same, wrong policy 'recipe" that would lead the country to an absolute dead-end.
The main opposition leader further accused Papandreou of "hiding behind the troika's insistence", without negotiating.
Samaras also charged what he called an "orgy of populism" around the word "consensus", warning that the climate of consensus was not being enhanced but, on the contrary, was being undermined, by the prime minister's own associates who were distorting ND's positions abroad.
He warned that he will not tolerate this to continue, stressing that when he himself goes abroad, he wears the "national jersey".
Samaras said Parliament was being asked to give a vote of confidence to a government of "partisan gluing", one made up of "cadres who until yesterday were blaming each other" in order to salvage PASOK, and not the unity of the Greek people.
ND, he added, will persist with the position that the only way for Greece's salvation is elections.
"We will not destabilise the country. It has been destabilised enough by the government. We do not want to govern ruins tomorrow. We are not the same as PASOK. Regardless of the outcome of the vote of confidence, the government has permanently lost the confidence of the people. That is irreversible," Samaras concluded.
KKE: Elections yes, referendum no
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga opposed any referendum, but said 'yes' to early elections.
She clarified, however, that KKE was taking this position under a different viewpoint from the other parties, with the aim of a "popular class movement and a weak government" arising.
Papariga disagreed with the prime minister's proposal for a referendum, warning that it was only "the other side of the harsh suppression o the people's struggles".
She warned that the "reshuffled government, the same PASOK, cannot fool those it has been fooling until now", and charged that the present government will go down in history as the government that "locked in the controlled bankruptcy" of the country, "the consecutive Memorandums", and the "emergency mammoth borrowing of 90-100 billion euros".
However, she stressed, the government will "present all those as a victory".
LA.O.S: Elections for power-sharing gov't
Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) leader George Karatzaferis called for early elections "that will produce an ecumenical government" as "the only government that can save Greece", and blamed the prime minister and the main opposition leader of "kicking the opportunity away" for a "national salvation government".
"Some sides did not want an ecumenical government because they chose facilitation of the two-party system over a national salvation government," Karatzaferis said, calling the prime minister's decision for a government reshuffle "cunning", adding that it led to a government of the "deep PASOK", which was "ineffectual" for Greece.
Prime Minister George Papandreou converted a parliamentary group "in a state of collapse" into a Parliamentary group of "granite".
"This is good for Mr. Papandreou, but bad for Greece," Karatzaferis said, adding that it would have been preferable that, instead of new finance minister going to (Sunday's) eurogroup meeting alone, all five Greek parliamentary parties went together to face Greece's European partners.
Karatzaferis also said his party will not vote in favour of the government's Medium-Term fiscal programme, "not because I don't believe it, but because I don't believe you (Papandreou)". On the vote of confidence called by the premier, Karatzaferis advised Papandreou that "instead of attempting in vain to seek the vote of the opposition parties, see to it first that those who were elected with you vote for you".
SYRIZA: Mainstream parties terrified of elections
Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) group leader Alexis Tsipras accused the two mainstream parties -- ruling PASOK and main opposition ND -- of wanting to avoid early elections, terrified that the two-party system will be overturned if elections were held now that the Greek people have taken to the streets in protest.
"Your big problem is that the Hellenic Republic has acquired a 'lower Parliament'," Tsipras said during a vote of confidence debate in parliament on Sunday, referring to the 'Indignants' movement in Greece, the main bulk of which has been gathered outside the Greek parliament for more than three weeks.
"Your parliamentary groups will give you a vote of confidence, but the 'Lower Parliament', the society that is agonizing, does not give you a confidence vote," Tsipras said.
Addressing Papandreou in particular, he said: "Your Parliamentary group may give you the vote of all of PASOK for a government with a specific work contract to put a tombstone on the Greek society, but not the vote of the society."