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Antenna: News in English (PM), 98-02-05
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From: Antenna Radio <http://www.antenna.gr> - email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated: Thursday, 05-Feb-98 14:45:36
 New DemocracyThree leading MPs have been expelled from New Democracy. Giorgos Souflias, Stephanos Manos, and Vasilis Konto-giannopoulos, all former ministers in the last New Democracy government, were thrown out of the party for failing to hold the party line in a parliamentary vote Monday.
In addition to the three expulsions, three other party members have been suspended.
There was talk of a split in New Democracy in the air Wednesday, following the disciplinary committee decision to expel the three leading MPs, and suspend three others late Tuesday night. In addition to the permanent ouster of former cabinet ministers Giorgos Souflias, Stephanos Manos, and Vasilis Kontoyiannopoulos, three MPs have been suspended for a year: Anastasis Papligouras, Nikos Kakalou, and Petros Tatoulis.
A seventh MP called up before the disciplinary committee - Giorgos Panagiotopoulos - was found to have done nothing wrong.
The crisis was sparked when the seven either refused to vote against Pasok legislation Monday, or unjustifiably failed to show up for the parliamentary vote. Only Panagiotopoulos convinced there was good cause for his absence from parliament Monday.
The Pasok legislation -- which reduces trade union input into how debt- ridden state-owned industries are run when it comes to things like pay, overtime, staff deployment, and shift length -- shows a Pasok commitment to restructure the public sector over worker opposition.
And many in New Democracy said even though the legislation doesn't go far enough, it is a step in the right direction. Party leader Kostas Karamanlis offered alternative legislation, asking his MPs to vote against the Pasok bill. When some MPs failed to tow the line, Karamanlis sent them to the disciplinary committee, recommending expulsion.
Former prime minister Constantinos Mitsotakis also failed to show up for Monday's vote in parliament without a good excuse. But Karamanlis let it slide, saying that as a former premier, Mitsotakis has the right to express views that diverge from the party line.
However, Kararmanlis also refused to allow Mitsotakis to preside over the five-member disciplinary council session, which returned a unanimous judgement on the expulsions and suspensions.
Mitsotakis said after the expulsions were announced: "A small group of aspiring guardians has carried out these expulsions in a premeditated manner. Their way of acting is alien to our democratic party, which should never be allowed to shrink until it consists of nothing more than that small group. I hope the party leader will understand that".
Party leader Karamanlis says he will not accept MPs questioning policy - the long years of introspective squabbling are over he adds - the expulsions are an exclamation mark.
But Mitsotakis thinks Karamanlis is overreacting: "No one is trying to undermine or question his leadership", he says.
Others in the party believe the parliamentary vote was a testing ground of the party's ability to distinguish itself from Pasok on a key poicy issue. Michalis Liapis thinks it's dangerous for the party to be seen to be giving Pasok support on its policies: "New Democracy", he believes, "free of its introspection, and without leaning toward prime minister Simitis - a failed and weak-willed administrator - is finding its way again. Our unity is guaranteed".
Stephanos Manos also puts a premium on unity, even though he's been thrown out. He said Wednesday he opposes the formation of a new party, and will keep up his contacts with party members.
"We shouldn't talk of splits", Manos told the press. He defended his refusal to vote against the Pasok legislation: "We remained loyal to our principles in parliament. For the country's economic crisis to be overcome, we need to make major changes in the public secotr. There is union resistance to change".
While Manos isn't looking to break the party apart, Giorgos Souflias says the expulsions amount to just that. The disciplinary decision was contrary to the party charter, he says, it was a coup. The leadership is trying to create another party, and ditshing the traditional beliefs of New Democracy. that is what gives support to Pasok, not our vote in parliament. Souflias says he'll continue to fight for the party, of which he's been such an important part.
Former prime minister Giorgos Rallis is talking of a split in the party. He also says there was nothing wrong with not following the party line in parliament Monday. "The Pasok bill is weak, but it's a move in the right direction", he explains. Calling the expulsions a mistake, he urges the party leadership to restore unity.
Rallis supported Karamanlis's leadership bid at last year's party congress. But he advised Karamanlis supporters against the disciplinary move before the committee met.
Everyone recognises that New Democracy is in crisis. But there are voices of caution on all sides.
And some, like Stavros Dimas, are optimistic that the party will come through the crisis in tact.
Some in New Democracy agree with the expulsions, some are taking a wait and see attitude. Others don't like them.
Karamanlis allegedly told his supporters Wednesday morning that the "difficult phase of introspection is over. My responsibility now is to attack the prime minister, because he's hurting the country".
But it remains to be seen if the infighting is really over, whether Karamanlis can hold the ranks together as he tries to promote himself as a clear, unquestioned alternative to Pasok; or if instead, the party will continue to find it hard to maintain a clear identity in an age when Pasok is happy to adopt the kind of policies many in New Democracy can live with.
 MandelisHaving passed the legislation which will give it a freer hand in regulating debt-ridden state-run industries, the government hopes that six months of dialogue will cool the angry unions off.
The transport minister says that management and workers will sit down to talk about how to make the money-losers more efficient.
"Six months is plenty of time for consensus to be reached", adds Tasos Mandelis. "Management will raise the issues that need to be hashed out...I think we'll get good results".
The six month time frame holds for all transportation industries except for Olympic Airways. There, the dialogue period will be two months.
After the talks are over, the government will decide what changes to make in the money losers on everything from pay scales, to staff deployment, to the length of shifts.
The transport ministry is also assigning outside counsultants to each of the troubled transport companies. The consultants will recommend changes they think need to be made to turn their assigned industries around.
Mandelis says he will assess their reports before acting.
 FarmersThe farmers of central Greece have decided step up their protest actions. As proof of their determination they used their tractors to block the Athens to Thessaloniki highway at three points for two hours.
This first volley is a message to the government to start taking their demands seriously. The farmers say that if their message isn't heard, they may block off nation's major roads for long periods of time.
The farmers are demanding, among other things, tax rebates, better repayment terms on state bank loans, and better pensions.
Two rallies are planned in central Greece for Thursday, when there will be more road blocks.
Protest leaders will decide what their next moves will be Thursday night. They spent Wednesday touring villages in the area, calling on farmers to support the protest action more vigorously.
There was also a roadblock of a bridge over the Acheloos River in western Greece, distributing oranges to drivers held up by the road block.
 EconomyThe government is going to abolish an unpopular tax system in two years.
Under the regime of the so-called objective criteria, small businesses and the self-employed are taxed according to an income the government says they earned, rather than what they declare.
Deputy finance minister Giorgos Dris announced Wednesday that the measure many taxpayers say is bleeding them for money they simply haven't earned, is going to be done away with.
Under the objective criteria, a small businessman is taxed according to things like the type and location of his business, or the size of his shop.
The government acknowledges the inequity of the system, but also insists that for the time being there is no better way of cracking down on tax evasion, assumed to be rife in the small business and professional sectors.
 UnemployedThe unemployed are getting assistance from the government, designed to help them find jobs. The labour minister announced a 400 million dollar programme to educate and train people out of work. The government will also subsidize employers who hire from the state's unemployed roster.
Labour minister Miltiades Papaioannou says the programme will assist the unemployed aged 24 to 29, and the long-term unemployed between the ages of 28 and 69.
To take part in the programme, the unemployed need only register at the employment office. They will be given a card that will make them eligible for educational and training programmes, and to work in government- subsidised jobs.
Those entering full-time jobs will receive a 15- dollar a day subsidy. Part- timers will get half that.
(c) ANT1 Radio 1998
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