Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Socialist Schism Could Weaken Government

Greece's beleaguered socialists suffered a new setback yesterday when one of their most high profile MPs declared himself an independent.

Andreas Loverdos on Monday proclaimed a new political movement, the Radical Movement for Social Democratic Alliance (Rikksy), but said he would continue to support the conservative-led coalition the socialist Pasok party is a member of. In a statement he indirectly criticised socialist party leader Evangelos Venizelos for allowing himself to be strong-armed by the conservatives. "The entrapment of [political] forces in one-party procedures... without correspondence to the people and to society must be avoided," he said. In aiming to unite the "European, reformist centre-left", his movement  puts itself in direct competition with the socialists.

Venizelos reacted with a statement that Pasok "will march ahead with the willing and able." Loverdos' move was all the more painful for Venizelos, because last spring the two had announced a pact to forge a common political path.

Pasok suffered the loss of six MPs on November 7, who were expelled for voting against a package of painful austerity measures amounting to 13.5bn euros. One more departed later. It is now down to 25 MPs from 33 after the June election.

The conservative-led government wields a total of 167 seats in the 300 seat legislature, but has shown signs of advanced ageing after just five months in power. Apart from the eight socialist defections it has also shed one conservative, while its smallest partner, the Democratic Left with 16 seats, did not stand with the government on its most controversial austerity bill. Loverdos could be a threat to Pasok if he were to lure away more MPs. That danger already exists in the form of the radical left opposition Syriza, which opposes Greece's austerity policy and is believed to be in secret negotiations with lawmakers from various factions.

The socialists' fortunes have gone from bad to worse since they ceded power to a technocrat interim prime minister last November. In back-to-back elections last May and June they took 13 percent and 12 percent of the popular vote, respectively, in a steep tumble from 44 percent in 2009. Many observers believe the party faces possible extinction. 

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