Gov’t ties up loose ends as PM mulls referendums for next spring

31 July 2016
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Parliament is to be busy this week as the government rushes to tie up loose ends prior to the August break after which representatives of the country’s creditors are to return to Athens to start the second review of Greece’s third bailout. Meanwhile Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is planning a series of referendums for next spring, according to sources.

Although the bulk of actions relating to the first bailout review have been adopted, a few bills must be pushed through to ensure Greece aligns its laws with European legislation.

With its overhaul of the pension and taxation systems, the first review was politically costly for leftist SYRIZA, which is now trailing conservative New Democracy in opinion polls.

The second review promises to be equally tough, however, as SYRIZA will face creditor demands to relax labor rights. Commenting in an interview with Ependisi newspaper published on Saturday, Labor Minister Giorgos Katrougalos said the government was determined not to yield to creditors’ demands on labor market reforms, saying that protecting workers’ rights is a matter of “identity” for the leftist-led government.

“We are starting straight away with the reversal of the deregulation imposed by the neoliberal scourge,” Katrougalos told the newspaper.

Tsipras has been keen to underline a shift in his government’s work toward increasing social welfare and introducing growth-boosting measures.

After several months of enforcing austerity measures that SYRIZA had once pledged to roll back, Tsipras’s administration last week pledged a slew of “offsetting” measures, granting relief in particular to pensioners on low incomes who have seen cuts to their benefits.

Tsipras is also determined to press ahead with his plans for a review of the Constitution, with sources indicating that the premier is planning to hold referendums on a range of issues next spring.

Specifically, Tsipras is said to be considering asking the Greek people to decide on crucial issues including the transition of Greece’s electoral law to simple proportional representation, on state control of energy and water, and also, possibly, on whether the powers of the president should be expanded or not.

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