ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek lawmaker Michalis Kassis quit the co-ruling Socialist PASOK party on Thursday in protest at austerity measures, adding pressure on the governing coalition before an important parliamentary vote next week on contested reforms.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras needs to push through financial cutbacks in a 13.5-billion-euro austerity package to receive a new aid tranche from international lenders before Greece runs out of cash this month.
Kassis’s departure was the latest setback for PASOK, beset with infighting since being thrashed in the June national election. PASOK has seen its support among voters sink to all-time lows over its support for unpopular austerity steps.
“I am now an independent member of parliament. I do not belong to PASOK,” Kassis was quoted as saying by the semi-official Athens News Agency.
His exit cut the majority held by PASOK and its ruling partner New Democracy to 159 in the 300-seat house. It came a day after the two parties narrowly pushed through a privatization law after several PASOK deputies voted against it.
The number of deputies in PASOK’s parliamentary group is now down to 32.
The ruling coalition retains enough votes to push through the remaining cost cuts, revenue hikes and labor reforms next week even without support from the third ruling party, the Democratic Left, whose 16 deputies oppose the labor moves.
But any further defections from PASOK over the reforms could leave the government facing an unpredictable vote.
Most PASOK deputies said after a meeting late on Wednesday that they would support the new austerity package but five party lawmakers, including Kassis, had yet to be convinced to do so.
Reporting by George Georgiopoulos, writing by Deepa Babington, editing by Mark Heinrich