With polls showing more than two-thirds of Greeks believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is expected to make a national TV address to try to convince a skeptical public to accept more pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions he said are needed to keep Greece in the Eurozone and from defaulting.
Samaras also told the 128 Members of Parliament of his New Democracy Conservative party that any who vote against a pending package of $14.6 billion in cuts will be expelled. He is overseeing an uneasy coalition with his rivals, the PASOK Socialists and tiny Democratic Left, who gave him their votes to gain a majority in the 300-member Parliament.
The government still hopes it can reach agreement on the cuts, with debate raging between Samaras, who wants PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis to sign off on harsh conditions they opposed before the June 17 elections which New Democracy narrowly won over the anti-austerity Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA.)
With protests and strikes already underway, and a massive general strike set for Sept. 26, Samaras reportedly would make his plea to try to hold down social unrest and promise there would be no more austerity measures. The Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) has warned unless the cuts are made that Greece may not get a $38.8 billion installment, the last in a first series of $152 billion in rescue loans, nor a pending second bailout of $172 billion.
Without the welfare aid, Greece will not be able to pay its workers or pensioners and could be forced out of the Eurozone, back to the drachma, and into what Samaras said would be a “nightmare.” He had vowed before the elections that he, too, would hold the line on austerity and try to renegotiate the conditions, but reneged on both promises.
When the new budget cut package is put before Parliament it will be in a single bill designed to prevent lawmakers from picking and choosing on the cuts, and debate will be limited to 48 hours in an attempt to quell expected protests. Previous protests when former PASOK leader George Papandreou was Premier before being hounded out of office last year often spilled over into riots, with police battling protesters outside the Parliament.
A Metron Analysis poll for Ependitis newspaper on Sept. 22 found 68 percent opposed to the government’s plans and gave SYRIZA a slight lead over New Democracy, with 20.8 percent of the support against 19.6 for the conservatives. Another poll, by Rass for Parapolitika weekly, gave ND a similar-sized lead over SYRIZA. Both surveys placed far-right neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in third place at about 9 percent.