Friday, October 24, 2008

Greek government walks out of parliament

Karamanlis - Greek PM under siege

With a parliamentary majority of just one the ruling New Democracy party of Kostas Karamanlis is fighting for its political life amidst scandal, economic downturn and growing popular dissatisfaction with the Greek government’s track record on a range of issues.

Today at 6pm (local time) the government faces a vote on whether to allow to a parliamentary investigation into the most recent in a string of scandals to hit the country. Despite vigourous denials of any wrong the entire ruling New Democracy parliamentary body has decided to abstain from this evening’s vote.

The latest scandal to rock the present administration claimed its most recent victim yesterday when Minister of State and the government public spokesman, Theodoros Rousopoulos resigned over alleged involvement in the Vatopedi land swap case. Bowing to intense political pressure from opposition parties Rousopoulos stood down from his post. However, he denied any wrongdoing and attributed his fall to baseless and unfair accusations by the left - wing PASOK party.

The Vatopedi case came to lighty earlier this year when the 1000 year old Greek Orthodox monastery attempted to exchange Lake Vastonidi, which was originally designated a wildlife reserve for a 40 million dollar conference facility in Athens, built with tax payer’s money for the 2004 Olympic games.

The high profile deal triggered a series of investigations in the Greek press over the terms of the purchase and the highly irregular way in which the lake had been obtained from the Greek state.

Since then there have been a series of embarrasing revelations in the media over connections between high ranking members of the current conservative government and the Vatopedi monastery bringing to light the shadowy, often tangled web of financial and political interests that link the Greek state and Greek Orthodox church.

The vote and resignation of one of the prime minister’s closest political associates weakens still further the government’s chances of seeing out the rest of its second term in power. Repeated clashes with trade unions over pension reforms, hundreds of high school sit-ins nationwide and plummeting opinion poll results point to the mounting unhappiness many ordinary Greeks feel at the inability of the New Democracy government to fulfil its electoral pledges to improve basic services and deal with the with endemic corruption marks much of public life.

Greek government walks out of parliament

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