PM pulls back from the brink

Af­ter hav­ing of­fered to step down in talks with ND, Pa­pan­dreou says he will carry out reshuf­fle in­stead

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Fol­low­ing a day of fever­ish spec­u­la­tion that he would step down to fa­cil­i­tate the for­ma­tion of a coali­tion gov­ern­ment, Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou said in a tele­vised speech to the nation yes­ter­day that he had no in­ten­tion of leav­ing power but would con­duct a cabi­net reshuf­fle and re­quest a vote of con­fi­dence in Par­lia­ment to­day.

The com­ments came just hours af­ter of­fi­cials in rul­ing PASOK and con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion New Democ­racy con­firmed that the two party lead­ers had been in talks aimed at form­ing a coali­tion gov­ern­ment.

Pa­pan­dreou said he had made a fourth ef­fort to win the broad po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus that has been de­manded by Greece’s cred­i­tors, the Euro­pean Union and the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund, who pledged the coun­try 110 bil­lion eu­ros in loans last year and are now dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­ity of a sec­ond bailout. But, the premier said, his “gen­uine ef­forts to cre­ate con­sen­sus” had been ex­ploited by the main op­po­si­tion party and turned into a “pub­lic re­la­tions ex­er­cise.”

Pa­pan­dreou ac­cused the op­po­si­tion of leak­ing de­tails of a pre­lim­i­nary con­ver­sa­tion with the leader of the main con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion, An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras. “To­day I made new pro­pos­als to the lead­ers of all par­ties to achieve the nec­es­sary na­tional con­sen­sus...But be­fore the sub­stance of the mat­ter had been dis­cussed, cer­tain con­di­tions were made pub­lic that were un­ac­cept­able,” Pa­pan­dreou said, adding that such an agree­ment would have kept “the coun­try in a pro­longed state of in­sta­bil­ity and in­tro­ver­sion while the cru­cial na­tional is­sue re­mains that of tack­ling the na­tional debt.”

Late yes­ter­day night Sa­ma­ras said in a tele­vised speech that his party could not co­op­er­ate with PASOK as “they have lost the trust of both the Greek cit­i­zens and the mar­kets.”

Sa­ma­ras added of Pa­pan­dreou, “If he can gov­ern, he shouldn’t have asked us for sup­port; if he can’t, he should call elec­tions.”

The Com­mu­nist Party (KKE), Par­lia­ment’s third-largest, said it was op­posed to the op­tion of a coali­tion gov­ern­ment. “What­ever form this gov­ern­ment would have taken, this would have been a gov­ern­ment of wolves that would have tried to break the will of the peo­ple and taken mea­sures that would bur­den the peo­ple even more,” said KKE leader Aleka Pa­pariga.

Pop­u­lar Ortho­dox Rally (LAOS) spokesman Costas Ai­vali­o­tis had ear­lier backed the idea of an “ec­u­meni­cal” gov­ern­ment that would in­clude the na­tion­al­ist party. “We need a gov­ern­ment of co­op­er­a­tion; it is what peo­ple have been ask­ing for for the last 15 months,” he said. “We can­not have peo­ple gather­ing in [Syn­tagma] square and not have some­thing tan­gi­ble to give them.”

The leader of the Coali­tion of the Rad­i­cal Left (SYRIZA), Alexis Tsipras, said that a coali­tion gov­ern­ment would be “un­demo­cratic.” He said the only so­lu­tion would be to call elec­tions.

Riot po­lice try to force pro­test­ers away from Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day. Thou­sands of peo­ple gath­ered in Athens on the day of a gen­eral strike to protest the gov­ern­ment’s aus­ter­ity mea­sures. Crowds booed when a car passed car­ry­ing Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou to a meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Karo­los Papou­lias. Sev­eral hours af­ter the meet­ing, Pa­pan­dreou said he would carry out a cabi­net reshuf­fle to­day and ask for a vote of con­fi­dence from his party’s MPs.

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