ATHENS – Tweaks to the astronomically-high unified ENFIA tax that has set off fury among taxpayers and Members of Parliament has led to the replacement of two lawmakers from the ruling parties who said they would vote against amendments they said are too weak.
Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras has temporarily removed MP Lefteris Avgenakis while coalition partner PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos bumped Nikos Sifounakis.
The two lawmakers voiced vehement complaints against the tax and the amendment. Under summer session rules which are still in session, and during which only 100 of 300 MPs are sitting, the government can remove MPs who don’t follow orders.
Avgenakis and both said they would not vote in favor of the latest changes to the tax, which include a 20 percent reduction in the levy on homes that are empty or which do not have electricity.
Both MPs said the changes did not do enough to make the tax fairer and won’t help scores of thousands of people being forced to pay prohibitive bills that were based on flawed and outdated data.
“I will not consent for a second time to changes that do not solve the problem and which will cause thousands of taxpayers to correctly believe that they are being taken for a ride,” said Sifounakis.
The two were replaced to reduce chances the amendment would fail while the government is trying to fix ENFIA. Other New Democracy and PASOK lawmakers are following orders and being told how to vote. Otherwise they too face being replaced or even ejected from their parties as MPs are not allowed to vote their conscience.
“I understand the pressure that government MPs are feeling,” said Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis. “But now that the [adjustment] program is coming to its end… our role, and that of our MPs, is to ensure that the Greek economy and the country continue on their course toward exiting the crisis.”
He was referring to Greece’s deal with international lenders who put up 240 billion euros ($317 billion) in two bailouts and demanded, and got, harsh austerity measures in return.