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Greek ruling party deputy quits post over austerity


15:05, October 18, 2011

ATHENS, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- A Greek ruling socialist PASOK party deputy quit post on Monday over a fresh austerity drive, as Prime Minister George Papandreou made a new plea for political and social unity.

The development came ahead of a critical parliament vote over new painful measures on Thursday and an EU summit over the issue in the weekend.

"On June 29 this summer I voted for the mid-term fiscal consolidation and growth program under our lenders blackmail that a negative vote would lead Greece to default," said Thomas Robopoulos in the letter of resignation he handed to the parliament's speaker Philippos Petsalnikos.

"I opted for the national interest under the condition that we would renegotiate the painful terms to secure further EU/International Monetary Fund funding. We failed to improve the terms and win national consensus," he said.

The lawmaker had voiced doubts over the rounds of harsh salary and pension cuts and tax hikes introduced by the government ahead of two other crucial parliamentary votes over the past 18 months.

He will be replaced by another PASOK party member in time for Thursday's vote, amidst local media reports over further pressure from "dissidents" in coming hours.

With a 154 seat majority in the 300-member assembly, the government is expected to pass the controversial omnibus bill that introduces new cuts on state spending, cutbacks on salaries and pensions, tax increases and a labor reserve program that forces 30,000 civil servants to early retirement by year end.

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