Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Greek Political Parties Cannot Agree on Deal to Name New Prime Minister

Greek political parties cannot agree on deal to name new prime minister

By Michael Birnbaum
Updated: Wednesday, November 9, 2:00 PM

BERLIN —Negotiations over a power-sharing, temporary Greek government were stuck in a third day of gridlock Wednesday, with no front-runner emerging to become the debt-ridden country’s next prime minister.

On Wednesday evening, an announcement from the president’s office saying that talks would continue Thursday intensified fears in Europe that the continent’s quest for a stable partner in Greece had instead become mired in the same bitter politics that have slowed reforms there.

Adding to the confusion, Prime Minister George Papandreou said in a nationally televised farewell address to the Greek people that an agreement had been reached, yet he named no names.

“Today, despite our political and social differences, we are setting aside sterile conflicts,” Papandreou said. “A government of political forces is taking over that goes beyond parties and personal biases.. . . We will take the necessary steps together with national unity.”’

Former European Central Bank official Lucas Papademos had appeared poised to lead Greece until new elections were held next year, but disagreements over the length he would serve and how much say he would get in naming his cabinet appeared to have delayed, and possibly doomed, his candidacy, Greek news reports said.

A government spokesman said Wednesday that a new government would be announced later in the day, but officials had made the same assurances both Monday and Tuesday, and no announcement came.

Across Europe, hopes dimmed that the country’s two main political parties could work together to resolve the country’s debt crisis. Already, Greek politicians appeared to be jockeying for advantage in the upcoming elections by avoiding too close an association with the unpopular European bailout plan.

The composition of a power-sharing cabinet remained unsettled, and Greek politicians expressed indignation Tuesday at pressure from European Union leaders to end the drawn-out negotiations.

Under the deal that seemed to have collapsed, Papademos, 64, a respected former vice president of the European Central Bank, would have led Greece until February elections.

Papandreou has pledged to resign as soon as the new government is announced, and he bade farewell to his ministers at a cabinet meeting Tuesday.

European leaders are asking Papandreou’s Socialist party and the conservative New Democracy party to provide written assurances that they support the Oct. 27 bailout plan and would implement it. The plan would give Greece an additional $180 billion in exchange for tough austerity reforms that were unpopular enough to topple the current government.

Finland’s Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, said Greece would not receive an $11 billion bailout installment until the assurances were in hand.

The demand brought an angry response from Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy leader, and it was holding up the conclusion of the deal, according to Greek news accounts.

“There is national dignity,” Samaras said in a statement Tuesday. He called the bailout plan “inevitable” and said, “I do not allow anyone to cast doubt on these statements.”

Samaras has tried to avoid naming any of his party’s members to cabinet posts, preferring to steer clear of association with the austerity measures. But a source close to the Greek cabinet said Papandreou was insisting that both parties be responsible for implementing the measures.

Greece needs bailout money before Dec. 15 or it will go bankrupt, officials have said.

Staff writer Steven Mufson in Washington contributed to this report.

1 comment:

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