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Antenna: News in English (PM), 98-02-09
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From: Antenna Radio <http://www.antenna.gr> - email: email@example.com
Last Updated: Monday, 09-Feb-98 16:13:35
 New Democracy ReviewThree leading MPs have been expelled from New Democracy. All former ministers in the last New Democracy government, they were thrown out of the party for failing to hold the party line in a parliamentary vote Monday.
In addition to the three expulsions, there were three suspensions.
New Democracy leader Kostas Karmanlis said that through their actions, the six had effectively placed themselves outside the party, and offered a crutch to Pasok.
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.
The crisis was sparked when the six either refused to vote against Pasok legislation Monday, or unjustifiably failed to show up for the parliamentary vote.
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
96 of the 108 MPs of the main oppositon party voted against the bill - arguing it doesn't go far enough in deflating the bloated public sector. The others felt it was a move in the right direction.
Constantinos Mitsotakis was one of the New Democracy MPs who didn't show up for the vote. He was spared the disciplinary rod only because he is a former prime minister.
Karamanlis said because of his political achievements, Mitsotakis is entitled to express views that don't mesh with the party line.
Justifying his disciplinary move, Karamanlis said Tuesday that those who hadn't voted with the party had given a crutch to a government that is hurting the nation. "That's unacceptable", he explained. We put an end to our party's introspection and years of infighting at our last congress. Greece needs decisive leaders and a collective spirit".
Souflias countered that it's not serious to discipline people for taking positions that are ideologically consistent with what New Democracy stands for.
Stephanos Manos, one of the MPs unjustifiably absent from parliament Monday night says what happened in the house is significant. "We saw the two big parties agreeing that big changes need to be made in the public sector right now, and fast". He said he'll stick to his principles and beliefs, because they're the only solution for Greece. Mitsotakis agreed with Manos: "New Democracy agreed with the policy proposal", he said. The rest is insignificant, a question of tactics".
Karmanlis was confident as the week went on that there will be no attempt to form a breakaway part in the aftermath of the expulsions. He says its simple: parties are borne of social need, not of the career needs of politicans.
And none of those expelled talked about forming a new party, though they continued to meet with each other and New Democracy members. Manos said Wednesday he opposes the formation of a new party, and will keep up his contacts with party
"We shouldn't talk of splits", Manos told the press. He defended his refusal to vote against the Pasok legislation: "For the country's economic crisis to be overcome", he said, "we need to make major changes in the public sector. There is union resistance to change".
Many observers say the position former prime minister Constantinos Mitsotakis takes will be crucial to future developments in the New Democracy camp and its environs. So far, he and his daughter MP Dora Bakoyianni, have been keeping their cards close to their chest.
It remains to be seen if the infighting is 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 appears happy to adopt the kind of policies many in New Democracy can live with.
 Parliament ReviewThe legislation voted on last Monday, bitterly resented by state workers not only split new Democracy. It was something which rubbed many in Pasok the wrong way as well.
Passing by a 142 to 121 vote, it restricts union participation in decision- making in work-related areas in debt-ridden state enterprises.
During the vote, trade unions staged work stoppages in protest of the new legislation.
They fear the government plan will take full control of decision-making on things like bonuses and staff employment in troubled industries and that it will be the beginning of a more generalized assault on collective bargaining.
139 of Pasok's 159 MPs supported the legislation, which has proved divisive in ruling party ranks, just as it has in New Democracy.
20 Pasok members didn't show up for the vote, 10 without any justification.
Pasok MP Kimon Koulouris called the legislaton "a threat to workers and their rights".
MP Franglinos Papadellis voted in favor of the bill, criticising those who abstained: "A political position means voting one way or the other".
The government is looking ahead. Labour minister Miltiades Papaioannou says now the legislation is on the books, the aim of the cabinet is to engage public sector workers in dialogue. "we are looking for some kind of agreement with them within six months", he says. "An agreement that will help make public enterprises more efficient, to the benefit of both the economy and the workers".
Finance minister Yiannos Papantonioui called the vote positive, adding that it opens the door to turning troubled enterprises around.
 DEKO ReviewThe government hopes 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.
 Floods ReviewTwo men lost their lives in flooding caused by torrential rainstorms in different parts of Greece Thursday and Friday.
There was substantial damage to homes and businesses in several cities, as the worst weather calamity in years did its worst.
A forty year old man lost his life on the northern island of Thassos. His car was swept away by a torrent of water. Apparently, he'd tried to cross the raging water, but was swept away. His body was found early Thursday morning.
In the western Greek village of TripovOUni, an 80-year-old man died Friday when he fell into his cistern while checking the water level.
In northern and western Greece, non-stop rain since Tuesday flooded thousands of acres, destroying crops and killing livestock. Small businesses and houses were filled with water as residents worked tirelessly to avert further damage and salvage what they could.
After heavy flooding caused by the river Ardas spilled over its banks, the trains stopped running in Evros.
The national highway which links Thessaloniki to Serres was roped off by police Thursday - heavy rainfall caused several landslides in the area.
Nor were the islands spared flooding. Residents of
Chios reported 10-metre waves Friday as strong winds whipped across the island.
Like everywhere else, residents said they haven't seen anything like it in a long, long time.
 Farmers ReviewThe nation's farmers once again are protesting the government's tax legislation. Farmers' leaders were touring the region of Thessaly early last Monday, trying to muster up support from their colleagues.
The last round of commerce-stifling blockades was a year ago, and ended without the farmers' demands for state measures to prevent their incomes from falling being met.
The farmers are demanding, among other things, tax rebates, better repayment terms on state bank loans and better pensions.
Tractors were parked alongside the national highway at several points Monday ready to seal off the artery, threatening to paralize Greece's road network again if conditions are not met by the government.
Thousand of tractors made a long convoy lining both sides of the highway in the regions of Karditsa and Larissa in central Greece, while their compatriots could be seen rallying in the Peloponese.
In Thessaloniki, farmers from two trade unions closed the ministry of Macedonia-Thrace in a symbolic form of protest.
Deciding to step up their protest actions, as proof of their determination, on Wednesday they used their tractors to block the Athens to Thessaloniki highway at three points for two hours.
This first volley was 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.
They stepped up their actions by blocking a bridge over the Acheloos River in western Greece, distributing oranges to drivers held up by the road block.
All throughout the week, they have shown the government they mean business and cautioned them not to take their protests lightly. They blocked the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway at three points again Thursday morning.
And, hundreds of farmers rallied in the city of Iralio, Crete, then blocked the Nikos Kazant-zAkis airport. All flights to and from the city were re- routed through Hania. They kept up the block until six am Friday morning.
During a rally in Kardista located in northern Greece Thursday, farmers called on the government to take their demands seriously. They were joined by the city's residents who in a strong show of solidarity closed stores and schools for the day.
After the rally, the tractors descended on the highway running between Athens and Thessaloniki, cutting off traffic for two hours.
At one of the blocks, students at Antenna's journalism school were on hand to hear the farmers' complaints.
Farmers made numerous blockades again on Friday. They closed off the Athens to Thessaloniki highway in central Greece, held rally in Larisa, and blocked the national highway just outside Thessaloniki for an hour, before moving on to a one-hour blockade of the the HalAstra bridge.
Protest leaders met throughout the day, debating the future course of the latest round of militant action.
While the protests are centred in central Greece, as they have been when they've broken out periodically over the past several years, other regions have played a supporting role.
In the Peloponese, farmers rallied in the city of Sparta, blocking the main bridge into town for two hours.
But most eyes are on central Greece, and the all- important Athens to Thessaloniki road. In Larisa, farmers spent Thursday night at their tractors by the roadside, making do with tents.
They promise they won't budge until the government helps ease their financial problems.
Justice minister Evangelos Yiannopoulos say the farmers have gone back on their pledge not to block the roads. We had 14 blocks nationwide Thursday".
 Cyprus-Elections ReviewAs Cypriots go to the polls to elect a new president Sunday, Antenna's Nikos Megrelis has gone to Cyprus to look at the men and the issues that will be factors in the balloting.
There are seven candidates running, among them the incumbent, Glavcos Clirides. And, as we hear in this report, There are four main issues.
(c) ANT1 Radio 1998
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