Antonis Samaras, prime minister of Greece, has once again warned that the nation could be forced out of the eurozone if parliament fails to approve a new round of austerity measures needed for a lifeline from creditors.
Sunday’s statements come days ahead of a Wednesday vote in parliament on a bill outlining $23b of cuts and other reforms, followed by a vote on Sunday on the 2013 budget as Greece battles to secure a new tranche of aid from its troika of international creditors.
“We must save the country from catastrophe … if we fail to stay in the euro nothing will make sense,” Samaras told legislators from his conservative party.
Samaras said the votes were vital to “put an end once and for all” to the risk that Greece, faced with a crushing debt mountain, could return to the drachma, its former currency.
He called on coalition partners, the socialist Pasok and the moderate left-wing Dimar (Democratic Left) parties, which have raised concerns about the scope of the measures, to act in the “supreme interests of the nation”.
Venizelos, socialist leader and former finance minister, echoed Samaras’s “catastrophic” warning over failing to deal with Greece’s debt burden.
“Until our country comes out of the crisis, we are confronted with two choices: one is very difficult and the other is catastrophic,” Venizelos said.
Greek unions however are planning a two-day strike from Tuesday to coincide with the austerity vote amid seething public anger over further painful cuts in a country that is heading for its sixth year of recession.
Greece has been negotiating with the European Union, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank to unlock a 31.5b euro tranche of a bailout package or risk bankruptcy in mid-November.
But the IMF said last week that the talks were stalled over the conditions for financing Greece, which has been seeking a two-year extension to meet its fiscal goals, sending stocks crashing.
The Dimar party, which has 16 deputies, has suggested it would vote against the bill on Wednesday because of its objections to labour market deregulation proposals, while up to five socialist legislators could also defy Samaras.
The dissenters would leave the government with a narrow majority, with just 154-159 seats in the 300-member assembly, the Greek press said on Sunday, while predicting the measures would nevertheless go through.
In an interview with Ethnos newspaper, Fotis Kouvelis, Dimar party leader, restated his opposition to the proposed labour reforms, accusing Samaras and the international creditors of trying to distance the party and bypassing it.