Greece moots unity government after referendum drama

The head of Greece’s main opposition party on Saturday called for early elections in the crisis-hit country, as Prime Minister George Papandreou prepared to start talks on forming a unity government.

Antonis Samaras, the leader of the New Democracy party, said in a statement: “The mask has fallen. Papandreou has rejected our proposals and he must take responsibility for that. Elections are now the only answer.”

Greece was to begin talks on forming an emergency government to drag itself out of political stalemate caused by two years of austerity after Papandreou won a nail-biting confidence vote on Friday night.

As the shadow of bankruptcy loomed over the crisis-hit nation, Papandreou won the parliamentary vote after pledging to initiate the talks to overcome a budding revolt from the party founded by his father nearly four decades ago.

He carried the vote, watched nervously by financial markets and fellow European leaders, by 153 deputies to 145 from the combined opposition.


Shortly before lawmakers began voting, Papandreou had announced he would see Greek President Carolos Papoulias later on Saturday to hand in his mandate and start talks on the formation of such a government.

“Papandreou gets vote of confidence and hands over the baton,” leftist Eleftherotypia daily said in its online edition.

The ruling socialists went into the showdown with 152 deputies but added another before the night was over.

Former labour minister Louka Katseli, who had been ejected earlier this month for opposing a collective wage amendment included in a reform Bill, was readmitted into the ruling parliamentary group after supporting the government.

Standing ovation
Papandreou’s lawmakers gave him a standing ovation as he entered the chamber and again at the end of his speech.

“Honest and broad backing is called for,” he told deputies ahead of the vote. “It is time to cooperate with a sense of national responsibility,” he said.

“I am not interested in a chair, the last thing I am interested in is whether I am re-elected,” said the 59-year-old politician, who took over the party in 2004 and endured two national election defeats and a leadership challenge from current Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos before coming to power in 2009.

“If by my deeds I can give a message that we are not enemies [with the opposition] … then I will have made the greatest contribution to the country in my 30-year career,” the PM said.

“The tradition of my family would not permit me to do anything different,” said Papandreou, whose father and grandfather were also leaders of Greece.

The debate, held with several thousand communists staging a noisy protest in front of the flood-lit Parliament, capped a tumultuous week for Greece.

It began with a disastrous call by Papandreou to hold a referendum on a 100-billion bailout package agreed with the EU last week, a move that sparked revolt in his own party and roiled financial markets.

Analysts had warned that renewed political uncertainty could halt the disbursement of a new 8-billion loan package that Greece needs by December 15 to pay the bills.

And for the first time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others had raised the spectre of Greece leaving the euro, hiking the pressure on the politicians in Athens to strike a deal if they wanted to remain in the bloc.

Early elections will be held once negotiations on the EU bailout package are complete, Finance Minister Venizelos told Parliament.

He said the new government would be in power “until the end of February” when details on the EU bailout package are expected to be completed “so they can be submitted to the electoral inspection of the Greek people”.

Stock markets had earlier closed lower as uncertainty grew over the outcome of the chaos in Athens, with Greece’s stock market down 1.17%. — AFP

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Richard Carter
Richard Carter
News editor for @afp in Japan. Former Europe/Africa desk chief. Ex Berlin, Brussels, Paris.

Related stories

George’s holiday in Greece with Madiba

In his book 65 Years of Friendship: A memoir of my friendship with Nelson Mandela, George Bizos tells of their only holiday together

A tropical subject: Could typhoons hit Rugby World Cup?

Here are some of the key questions as one of the world's natural disaster hotspots prepares to host one of the world's biggest sporting events

Stormy G20 looms as Trump bashes China on trade

The long-running trade war between the world's top two economies looked poised to dominate the agenda of the group of 20 summit

Trump ‘walks’ as North Korea talks end abruptly without deal

The much-anticipated second meeting between the two leaders was supposed to build on their historic first summit in Singapore

Kim arrives in Hanoi for nuclear summit with Trump

The normally sleepy Vietnamese border station of Dong Dang spruced itself up for Kim's arrival after the leader's 4 000km odyssey through China

Ghosn re-arrested over fresh allegations

The case of the once-revered tycoon has gripped Japan and the business world since he was arrested as he stepped off his private jet
Advertising

Subscribers only

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never...

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

More top stories

‘Where the governments see statistics, I see the faces of...

Yvette Raphael describes herself as a ‘professional protester, sjambok feminist and hater of trash’. Government officials would likely refer to her as ‘a rebel’. She’s fought for equality her entire life, she says. And she’s scared of no one

Covid-19 stems ‘white’ gold rush

The pandemic hit abalone farmers fast and hard. Prices have dropped and backers appear to be losing their appetite for investing in the delicacy

Al-Shabab’s terror in Mozambique

Amid reports of brutal, indiscriminate slaughter, civilians bear the brunt as villages are abandoned and the number of refugees nears half a million

South Africa’s cities opt for clean energy

Efforts to reduce carbon emissions will hinge on the transport sector
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…