As Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras struggles to get his coalition partners to back $14.6 billion in new cuts, main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) has accused the Premier of being afraid to take questions in Parliament.
It’s traditional for Greek leaders to take part in what is called the Prime Minister’s Hour but Tsipras said the New Democracy leader has been conspicuous by his absence. “If he does not want to answer to Parliament, then he should abolish the Prime Minister’s Hour,” the leftist leader said.
He made his remarks during a debate regarding plans for the sale of ailing Greek lender Hellenic Postbank, where he also accused Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras of shaking shareholders’ confidence in the lender by suggesting that it has become unsustainable.
“If you were in a private bank and said that it was unsustainable, what would the investors do?” Tsipras asked. “You are going for the bank’s privatization but have said that it’s a ‘lemon.’ In other countries this would bring in the prosecutor.” Samaras is ruling only because the PASOK Socialists have given him their 33 seats in Parliament and the Democratic Left its 17, to go with the 129 New Democracy won in the June 17 elections, narrowly beating SYRIZA. There are 300 Members of Parliament.
Tsipras went on to accuse Samaras of shirking his responsibility toward the House by not being present during the fixed Q&A session. “This is the fifth question that the prime minister has not shown up to answer,” Tsipras said.
Turning to Stournaras, he said, “I have nothing against you and I don’t underestimate your presence,” he told Stournaras. “But, I wonder where the Prime Minister is. He hasn’t stepped foot in the House since July 6, when he read out the government’s policy program. Is this some kind of new perception of respect for the Parliamentary process? If he does not want to answer he could abolish the Prime Minister’s Hour and make it the Finance Minister’s Hour.”
Stournaras said that Tsipras was “doing an injustice to the Prime Minister, who is credited with the obvious change in climate,” referring to recent comments by leading European Union officials in support of Greece’s continued membership in the Eurozone.
The SYRIZA leader blasted Samaras for scrapping his keynote address at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF,) which begins on Sept. 8, an annual tradition the new Premier has sidestepped although it has been used to set out the government’s budgetary policy. “The Prime Minister has nothing to say, which is why he won’t attend the TIF to deliver the established speech to the productive sector. This didn’t even happen in the dictatorship,” Tsipras said.
Samaras has said that he will be making only a brief visit to Thessaloniki ahead of the scheduled talks in Athens on Sept. 9 between Stournaras and a team of inspectors from the country’s foreign creditors, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) who are demanding he make more cuts and institute reforms.