|ATHENS – For the second time, Prime Minister George Papandreou said he won’t resign, and that no coalition government is planned with his PASOK Socialist party’s rivals to show unity in the face of an economic crisis that has the country on the precipice of a default. Spokesman Ilias Mossialos flatly rejected the idea that Papandreou is considering quitting or is seeking to form a coalition with other parties despite concern within PASOK that the Socialists are committing political suicide by adopting unpopular austerity measures without the support of anyone else in Parliament.
“He is not willing to resign,” Mossialos said. “He enjoys the support of his Parliamentary group.” PASOK’s 154 members in the 300 member Parliament have generally rubber stamped all the measures Papandreou has put before them on the orders of the EU-IMF-ECB Troika that is providing a $152 billion bailout in return for deep pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions, measures which have led to 18 months of sometimes violent protests.Mossialos criticized media reports that suggested Papandreou was set to make a fresh attempt at forming a coalition after his failed effort this summer. “Even if they are products of people’s imagination, they are unacceptable and bear no relation at all to reality,” he said, adding that the claims “undermine political stability, the country’s smooth progress and threaten political and social stability.”
Sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini that PASOK deputies are pressuring the prime minister to seek a coalition deal with the major opposition Conservative New Democracy in particular as they fear that the center-left party’s ratings are taking such damaging hits that it may take it many years to recover. In a newspaper interview, Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou said that she was in favor of all avenues being explored in order to find some consensus with opposition parties.
Former New Democracy MP Elsa Papadimitriou, who quit the conservatives to become an independent when she voted for the midterm fiscal plan, told Sunday’s Kathimerini that President Karolos Papoulias should use his powers to form a government of national unity. She suggested that the former vice president of the European Central Bank, Lucas Papademos, should be made Prime Minister with Papandreou taking over the role of Foreign Minister, which would be a comedown of embarrasing proportions.
The one option that top government officials appear to be against is for the Prime Minister to call snap elections. Sources said that Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who is due to resume talks with Troika representatives Oct. 10, has clearly stated his opposition to the idea. In an interview with the Proto Thema newspaper, Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis said calling early elections would be an “historic crime against the country.”
The Greek newspaper Imerisia reported, without citing anyone, that Papandreou was willing to offer his resignation in order to form a unity government to pass measures needed to avert a default. Venizelos said yesterday that Greece has sufficient cash to meet its needs until mid-November. European Union and International Monetary Fund officials are awaiting a report from a team of inspectors to determine approval for a sixth loan installment of $10.7 billion.