The government of Loukas Papademos received a vote of confidence in parliament today. 255 MPs voted in favour, 38 against. Three deputies from the coalition broke with party discipline to vote against. Conservative Panos Kammenos was expelled from New Deomcracy, making him the second MP to suffer that fate in two days after Sotiris Hatzigakis. Pasok did not move to discipline Panayotis Kourouplis and Christos Katsouras.
Papademos already faces problems in releasing the 8bn euro instalment of the bailout. He asked the leaders of the three parties in his coalition to sign a letter saying they stand by the terms of the IMF and eurozone-sponsored bailout.
But the leader of the conservative New Democracy party – Antonis Samaras - is refusing to sign. Samaras’ signature is important for 2 reasons: Greece’s European creditors want his signature, because he has was in opposition to many of the country's austerity measures, saying they have made Greece’s recession worse and put people out of work. And Polls suggest he is set to become the next prime minister after elections that could take place as early as February.
Samaras earlier told the chamber that his party's membership in the coalition and voting record in parliamentary legislature carries more constitutional weight than his personal signature on a letter. In a populist note, he also called on the government not to carry out a threat to cut power to households that cannot pay a new property tax, being charged through electricity bills.
The comment from Samaras came after the Public Power Corporation's workers' union this morning cut power to the health ministry for half a day. The union, Genop, issued a proclamation saying the ministry owes over 3.8 million euro in unpaid bills. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. The government and broader public sector owe the power company a total of 141 million euro, the union says, a figure the PPC did not deny.
The company has slashed 328 million euro from its payroll in the last two years, under pressure from the government.
Genop is also incensed that the PPC's list of non-paying households is growing sharply after three years of recession. The government's decision to charge a new property tax through power bills has accelerated the blacklisting of households. Those unable to pay in 40 days are cut off. The union says households now owe 715 million euro, and fears that government policy will bankrupt the power company.