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Greek deputy defense minister resigns over parties funding dispute

(Xinhua)

10:38, April 10, 2012

ATHENS, April 9 (Xinhua) -- Greek Deputy Defense Minister Yiannis Ragoussis tendered his resignation to Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Monday over a bill amendment on the political parties' funding which was approved by the parliament, Greek media reported.

With the support of the two parties backing the interim government, the socialist PASOK party and the conservative New Democracy party, the assembly cleared the proposal to release 30 million euros (39.3 million U.S. dollars) to parties represented in parliament ahead of the early general elections due this spring.

Out of the total 214 deputies present during the vote, 155 MPs voted for the amendment and 56 voted against, including a dozen members of the two coalition partners.

Ragoussis, a leading member of PASOK, opted to abstain and quit his post. It has not been clarified yet whether Papademos will accept the resignation and whether he will appoint someone else, since according to the latest information Greece is heading to elections in about a month.

In a fresh statement to the press on Monday Greek government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said that by the end of this week "most probably on Wednesday" the parliament is expected to be dissolved and an announcement on the date of elections will be made.

According to all indications from political leaders recently, the snap polls could take place on May 6 or May 13.

Monday's bill amendment regarding the funding of parties ahead of the elections is considered as one of the last tasks of Papademos' administration which took office last November in order to secure further vital international funding to Greece to avoid a chaotic default.

Referring to the controversial amendment, Interior Minister Tassos Yannitsis said that it was necessary to mount campaigns ahead of the polls, since most parties face debt issues.

Critics of the bill amendment, in particular smaller parties, argued that it undermines voters' trust in the parties, since the sum is divided in proportion to the percentages parties received in the 2009 general elections, which has changed dramatically ever since.

In the previous election in 2009, PASOK won a wide parliamentary majority with a 44 percent of votes and New Democracy some 33 percent of votes. Amidst an unpopular austerity and reform drive implemented ever since which is backed by the two parties in order to address the Greek debt crisis, their support has plummeted.

According to the latest opinion polls, New Democracy now garners about 24 percent of votes, PASOK around 16 percent of votes, while Left parties have significantly increased their standing in comparison to two years ago.

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