Greek parliament ties up loose ends before polls
ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
Papademos (L) and Finance Minister Philippos Sachinidis. AP photoGreek lawmakers wrapped up their legislative activity late Tuesday ahead of snap elections expected next month as a poll predicted an uncertain outcome due to anger over austerity measures.
The 300-seat chamber approved a labor bill restructuring social security funds, the last piece of legislation that the caretaker government of Lucas Papademos had pledged to pass before the ballot at the behest of the country’s creditors, the EU and IMF.
Under an amendment adopted late at night a “closed centre” would be set up near Athens for immigrants without papers, the first of some 30 nationwide announced recently by Socialist Minister for Protection of the Citizen Michalis Chryssohoides.
The opposition parties on the left and far-right voted against the amendment, charging the centrist coalition was holding a “last-minute” vote on immigration problems that had been there for years.
“This parliamentary period draws to a close,” parliament speaker Philippos Petsalnikos told the chamber.
Papademos is expected to submit his mandate this week to the head of state, President Carolos Papoulias, who will then issue a decree dissolving parliament and calling for elections within 30 days.
According to ministers and other officials, May 6 is the most likely date.
“All the conditions are present for elections on May 6,” Antonis Samaras, head of the conservative New Democracy party that leads opinion polls, told private Mega television in an interview on April 9.
Mega released a poll giving New Democracy a four-point lead over coalition partner the socialist Pasok party, which is narrowing the gap under its new leader, former finance minister Evangelos Venizelos.
The survey by pollsters GPO suggests that with a mere 18.2 percent of the vote, New Democracy may be unable to form a majority government.
Amid mounting anger over two years of painful austerity, nearly one in five respondents did not give a party preference and over three percent said they would support a neo-Nazi party, giving them enough votes to enter parliament.
Papademos took over in November as head of a coalition backed by New Democracy and Pasok to complete a debt-saving bond swap with private creditors and ratify a eurozone bailout worth 130 billion euros.
Siemens wins Athens deal
BERLIN - The Associated Press
Germany’s Siemens says it has won a contract worth 41 million euros ($54 million) to provide signaling and other technology for an extension of the Athens subway system.
Siemens said yesterday that the project, which is being 70 percent financed by European Union subsidies, includes partial automation of the trains.
Lines 2 and 3 of the Athens metro are being extended by a total 16 kilometers), a plan that includes a link between the Greek capital’s airport and the port of Piraeus.
Siemens’ announcement came the week after Greece’s Parliament ratified an agreement to end a long-running dispute over alleged bribe-paying by the company. As part of that deal, Siemens said it would spend over €100 million “to enhance its activities in Greece” and preserve jobs.